Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Monday, June 25, 2007

A Passion for Management - Introduction

Many professionals see management as incidental to their real work, something that they must do, really a distraction.

I do not share this view. While much of my recent professional life has seen me work alone, I actually love management and see it as central to my professional life.

All this got me musing. Why is management so neglected? Yes, we have an increasing range of management courses, but these mainly teach business techniques. Why is the act of managing itself not focused on?

We can see this in the current obsession with leadership. Yes, leadership is important. But of itself it does not deliver sustainable results. Adolf Hitler was a great leader. So was Stalin. But this did not mean that their countries were well managed.

We can see this, too, in the current obsession with performance management. At best, a series of cascading performance agreements can be a useful tool. At worst, it becomes a substitute for management. The agreements are in place, let everybody get on with doing.

Yet experience shows that performance agreements as such are a poor tool for achieving sustained performance improvement. At best, and this is actually unusual, they deliver the results specified in the agreement. Even then, they capture only a small part of the realities of good performance.

Why, then, is management neglected?

In simplest terms, I think that it is because management involves managing people and uncertainties, and many are simply uncomfortable with this. So instead of dealing with people issues and uncertainty, we try to remove the problem, substituting systems instead. And this does not work.

Given all this, in the next few posts I want to share with you my own passion for management, explaining why I think that this is a central human activity. In so doing, I hope to give you a few hints and guides based on my own experience that will help you become better managers.

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