The Ideas Of Vision, Prescience And Flexibility For Managers

Vision in that the future must be seen and communicated to the team; Values in that the team needs a unifying code of practice which supports and enhances co-operation.
 Verve in that positive enthusiasm is the best way of making the work exciting and fun. 

If you do not think your work is exciting, then we have found a problem. 

A better word than Verve might be Chutzpah (except that it does not begin with a "V") which means "shameless audacity". 

Is that not refreshing? Inspiring even? 

A manager should dare to do what he or she has decided to do and to do it with confidence and pride.

VISION

One of the most cited characteristics of successful managers is that of vision. 

Of all the concepts in modern management, this is the one about which the most has been written. 

Of course different writers use it in different ways. 

One usage brings it to mean clairvoyance as in: "she had great vision in foreseeing the demise of that market".



 This meaning is of no use to you since crystal balls are only validated by hindsight and this article is concerned with your future. 

The meaning of vision which concerns you as a manager is: a vivid idea of what the future should be. 

This has nothing to do with prediction but everything to do with hope.






It is a focus for the team's activity, which provides sustained long-term motivation and which unites your team. 

A vision has to be something sufficiently exciting to bind your team with you in common purpose. This implies two things:
  • you need to decide where your team is headed
  • you have to communicate that vision to them
Communicating a vision is not simply a case of painting it in large red letters across your office wall (although, as a stunt, this actually might be quite effective), but rather bringing the whole team to perceive your vision and to begin to share it with you.

 A vision, to be worthy, must become a guiding principle for the decision and actions of your group. 

Now, this vision thing, it is still a rather nebulous concept, hard to pin down, hard to define usefully; a vision may even be impractical (like "zero defects").

 And so there is an extra stage which assists in its communication: once you have identified your vision, you can illustrate it with a concrete goal, a mission

Which leads to the creation of the famous "mission statement". 

Let us consider first what is a mission, and then return to a vision. 
A mission has two important qualities:
  • it should be tough, but achievable given sufficient effort
  • it must be possible to tell when it has been achieved
To maintain an impetus, it might also have a time limit so that people can pace their activity rather than getting winded in the initial push. 

The scope of your vision depends upon how high you have risen in the management structure, and so also does the time limit on your mission statement. 

Heads of multinational corporations must take a longer view of the future than the project leader in divisional recruitment; the former may be looking at a strategy for the next twenty-five years, the latter may be concerned with attracting the current crop of senior school children for employment in two-three years. 

Thus a new manager will want a mission which can be achieved within one or two years. 

If you are stuck for a mission, think about using Quality as a focus since this is something on which you can build. 

Similarly, any aspects of great management which are not habitual in your team at the moment could be exemplified in a mission statement. 

For instance, if your team is in product design, your mission might be to fully automate the test procedures by the next product release; or more generally, your team mission might be to reduce the time spent in meetings by half within six months. 

Once you have established a few possible mission statements, you can try to communicate (or decide upon) your vision.

 This articulates your underlying philosophy in wanting the outcomes you desire. 

Not, please note, the ones you think you should desire but an honest statement of personal motivation; for it is only the latter which you will follow with conviction and so of which you will convince others.

 In general, your vision should be unending, with no time limit, and inspirational; it is the driving force which continues even when the mission statement has been achieved. 

Even so, it can be quite simple: Walt Disney's vision was "to make people happy". 

As a manager, yours might be something a little closer to your own team: mine is "to make working here exciting". 

There is no real call to make a public announcement of your vision or to place it on the notice board. 

Such affairs are quite common now, and normally attract mirth and disdain.

 If your vision is not communicated to your team by what you say and do, then you are not applying it yourself. 

It is your driving motivation - once you have identified it, act on it in every decision you make. 

PRESCIENCE

Prescience is something for which you really have to work at. 

Prescience is having foreknowledge of the future. 

Particularly as a Protector, you have to know in advance the external events which impact upon your team. The key is information and there are three type:
  • information you hear (tit-bits about travel, meetings, etc)
  • information you gather (minutes of meetings, financial figure, etc)
  • information you infer (if this happens then my team will need ...)
Information is absolutely vital. 

Surveys of decision making in companies reveal that the rapid and decisive decisions normally stem not from intuitive and extraordinary leadership but rather from the existence of an established information system covering the relevant data. 

Managers who know the full information can quickly reach an informed decision. 

The influences upon you and your team stem mostly from within the company and this is where you must establish an active interest.

 Let us put that another way: if you do not keep your eyes open you are failing in your role as Protector to you team. 

Thus if your manager comes back from an important meeting, sit down with him/her afterwards and have a chat.

 There is no need to employ subterfuge, merely ask questions. If there are answers, you hear them; if there are none, you know to investigate elsewhere.

 If you can provide your manager with suggestions/ideas then you will benefit from his/her gratitude and future confidence(s). 

You should also talk to people in other departments; and never forget the secretaries who are normally the first to know everything.

Now some people love this aspect of the job, it makes them feel like politicians or espionage agents; others hate it, for exactly the same reasons. 

The point is that it must be done or you will be unprepared; but do not let it become a obsession. 

Gathering information is not enough on its own: you have to process it and be aware of implications. The trick is to try to predict the next logical step from any changes you see. 

This can get very complicated, so try to restrict yourself to guessing one step only.

 Thus if the sales figures show a tailing off for the current product (and there are mutterings about the competition) then if you are in development, you might expect to be pressured for tighter schedules; if you are in publicity, then there may soon be a request for launch material; if you are in sales, you might be asked to establish potential demand and practical pricing levels. 

Since you know this, you can have the information ready (or a schedule defence prepared) for when it is first requested, and you and your team will shine. 

Another way of generating information is to play "what if" games. 

There are dreadfully scientific ways of performing this sort of analysis, but reasonably you do not have the time. 

The sort of work this article is suggesting is that you, with your team or other managers (or both), play "what if" over coffee now and then. 

All you have to do is to postulate a novel question and see how it runs. 
A productive variation on the "what if" game is to ask: "what can go wrong?"

 By deliberately trying to identify potential problems at the onset, you will prevent many and compensate for many more. 

Set aside specific time to do this type of thinking. 

Call it contingency planning and put in in your diary as a regular appointment.

FLEXIBILITY

One of the main challenges in management is in avoiding pat answers to everyday questions. 

There is nothing so dull, for you and your team, as you pulling out the same answer to every situation. 

It is also wrong.

 Each situation, and each person, is unique and no text-book answer will be able to embrace that uniqueness - except one: you are the manager, you have to judge each situation with a fresh eye, and you have to create the response. 

Your common sense and experience are your best guide in analyzing the problem and in evolving your response.

Even if the established response seems suitable, you might still try something different. 

This is simple Darwinism. By trying variations upon standard models, you evolve new and potentially fitter models. 

If they do not work, you do not repeat them (although they might be tried in other circumstances); if they work better, then you have adapted and evolved.

This deliberate flexibility is not just an academic exercise to find the best answer. 

The point is that the situation and the environment are continually changing; and the rate of change is generally increasing with advancing technology.

 If you do not continually adapt (through experimentation) to accommodate these changes, then the solution which used to work (and which you still habitually apply) will no longer be appropriate. 

You will become the dodo.

 A lack of flexibility will cause stagnation and inertia. 

Not only do you not adapt, but the whole excitement of your work and your team diminish as fresh ideas are lacking or lost.

Without detracting from the main work, you can stimulate your team with changes of focus

This includes drives for specific quality improvements, mission statements, team building activities, delegated authority, and so on. 

You have to decide how often to "raise excitement" about new issues. 

On the one hand, too many focuses may distract or prevent the attainment of any one; on the other hand, changes in focus keep them fresh and maintain the excitement. 

By practicing this philosophy yourself, you also stimulate fresh ideas from your team because they see that it is a normal part of the team practice to adopt and experiment with innovation. 

Thus not only are you relieved of the task of generating the new ideas, but also your team acquire ownership in the whole creative process.

The really good news is that even a lousy choice of focus can have a beneficial effect. 

The most famous experiments in management studies were conducted long long ago between 1927 and 1932 by E Mayo and others at the Hawthorne works of the Western Electric Company in Chicago. 

The study was originally motivated by a failed experiment to determine the effect of lighting conditions on the production rates of factory workers. 

This experiment "failed" because when the lighting conditions were changed for the experimental group, production also increased in the control group where no changes had been made.

 Essentially, Mayo took a small group of workers and varied different conditions (number and duration of breaks, shorter hours, refreshments, etc) to see how these actually affected production. 

The problem was not that production was unaffected but rather that whatever Mayo did, production increased; even when conditions were returned to the original ones, production increased. 

After many one-to-one interviews, Mayo deduced that the principal effect of his investigations had been to establish a team spirit amongst the group of workers. 

The girls (sic) who had formally worked with large numbers of others were now a small team, they were consulted on the experiments, and the researchers displayed a keen interest in the way the girls were working and feeling about their work. 

Thus their own involvement and the interest shown in them were the reasons for the girl's increased productivity.

By providing changes of focus you build and motivate your team. 

For if you show in these changes that you are actively working to help them work, then they will feel that their efforts are recognized.

 If you also include their ideas in the changes, then they will feel themselves to be a valued part of the team.

 If you pace these changes correctly, you can stimulate "multiple Hawthorne effects" and continually increase productivity. 

And notice, this is not slave driving. 

The increased productivity of a Hawthorne effect comes from the enthusiasm of the workforce; they actually want to work better. 

Best Wishes.

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