Kevin Vincent is a director of business improvement consultants Vincent and Nugent Limited – www.vincentnugent.co.nz
Managing is specific work and as such requires specific skills. Peter Drucker in his work ‘Management: tasks, responsibilities, practices’ stated these as:
- Making effective decisions
- Communications within and without the organisation
- The proper use of controls and measurements
- The proper use of analytical tools, that is, of the management sciences.
Drucker said “No manager is likely to master all these skills. But every manager needs to understand what they are, what they can do for him.”
Drucker’s writings on management skills hold as true today as when he first wrote them in 1973.
I believe decision making is the most important skill. Decisions are the major output of any manager. Effective decision making can be made simpler if a logical and sequenced process is followed.
I recall reading about this comprehensive process called PROACT a few years ago.
The PROACT approach (outlined in the book Smart Choices) helps you see both the tangible and non-tangible aspects of the situation more clearly and to translate all pertinent facts, feelings, opinions, beliefs and advice in to the best possible decision.
PROACT stands for:
- Problem statement
The method consists of examining each element separately using them to clarify your thoughts progressively.
Communication has traditionally been a “top down” process from managers to employees but it has to be both ways to be effective. The manager and employee both need to listen to hear, listen to understand, and listen to be able to convey the understanding. Listening is a prerequisite to effective communication.
Today, with many more sophisticated ways to communicate, we must ensure messages are understood and misunderstandings are minimised. Face to face remains best.
Synonyms for “controls” are measurement and information. Controls are the goals, they focus on results. The goals are developed following the setting of the strategy. Goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely).
What you measure is generally what you get and the measures must be what are actually important and no more. To achieve this I recommend (and use) the Kaplan and Norton measurement tool, ‘The Balanced Score Card’ or BSC.
Kaplan and Norton state, “Think of the balanced scorecard as the dials and indicators in an aeroplane cockpit. For the complex task of navigating and flying an aeroplane, pilots need detailed information about many aspects of the flight as reliance on one instrument can be fatal. Similarly, the complexity of managing an organisation today requires that managers be able to view performance in several areas simultaneously.”
The BSC considers four key perspectives, these being financial, customer, learning and growth (your people) and internal processes (your efficiency).
Management science tells us that “business” is a system where people willingly contribute their knowledge, skills, commitment and dedication to the enterprise. Management science, as in the field of business analytics, has improved significantly over the last few years, providing business users with better insights, particularly from operational data stored in transactional systems.
Today’s skilled manager should familiarise themselves with these analytics tools to improve the results of a business process along one or more dimensions (e.g., profit, time to market). Analytics are now regularly used in multiple areas, including sales, marketing, and supply chain optimisation.