By Ben Venter, business partner, The CONFIDANT Group
There is a widely held belief that formulation of strategy is the function of top management; while execution belongs to “line management”. Is this conventional wisdom at work, or is it a misguided belief that well-formulated strategy will simply “happen”? These five myths may shed some light on the question.
1. Executives formulate strategy; managers execute.
Executives are first and foremost managers responsible for the performance, development and retention of first line managers. They must ensure operational effectiveness. They set the tone of the organisation and as such are concerned with governance issues. They set and maintain standards. They raise the bar. They do formulate strategy and then ensure execution.
2. Managers are too busy to get involved in people issues.
Unless managers are held accountable, assessed against and equipped to manage the productivity of individuals and the delivery unit, they are not managing, which according to Peter Drucker is to “convert effort into performance”. It is true that without the necessary skills managers will be totally absorbed in crisis management as a result of performance shortcomings.
3. Managers are not capable of acquiring the competencies to manage people – it requires the skills of a specialist.
Structuring a role which is aligned with the plan is an easily acquired skill. Identifying suitable talent based on a reliable assessment of work-related talents is straightforward.
Managers who have mastered the complexities of a production facility or a sales function or the contribution of data processing, experience no difficulty managing a practical work-related people process system.
4. Experience and qualifications are the most important hiring criteria.
This is naive thinking. It implies that all qualified engineers with ten years’ experience are equally competent for any role in the field of engineering. It does not explain why an academic with no insurance experience or relevant qualification succeeded brilliantly as CEO of an insurance giant.
5. Managers can motivate their people.
Motivation* comes from within – it is beyond the reach of the manager. Engagement, however, refers to people who identify with the mission of the enterprise. The informed manager can ensure that direct reports are required to do what they do best, every day, by matching talents and the demands of roles. As the engagement level in the unit rises so does the satisfaction of achievement, skills and, consequently performance levels.
*Motivation as explained and measured by Arnold Daniels who developed The Predictive Index Management Programme in 1955.
First Break All The Rules by Buckingham and Coffman published in 1999 suggest that Daniels’ alignment of talent with work-related demands is a practical alternative to yesterday’s motivational theories.