W&WP July 2002

Three Drivers of Success, Part 3 - Management

By Tom Dossenbach

For the past two months I have shared my opinions on the drivers of success in the industry. In May I began with leadership - the cogwheel that serves as the driver of the other two. I presented a simple definition of leadership as "guiding along the way." Last month, I presented the second, innovation, "the process of making changes."

The third driver of success, management, is the topic this month. As I have mentioned in the two previous parts, while the three elements are separate, they are interrelated and interconnected as represented by the three cogwheels on this page.

I feel compelled to remind the reader again that all three of these are indispensable and must be designed to work together to effectively and efficiently power a successful company. Simply stated, one or two of the drivers working alone or isolated do not constitute a formula for success. Thus, I urge you to go back and read the May and June installments of Management Matters.

What Is Management?

The old definitions referred to management as controlling. Today, some say it is getting things done through people. While these are still valid to a degree, I prefer to define management as charting the course of the company.

As mentioned above, "guiding along the way" is left to the leadership throughout the company. Some leadership comes from management, but some comes from employees on the factory floor. Great leaders know where the company is now and where it is headed. However, the destination of the company first has to be defined and that is the responsibility of management.

Effective leaders have learned the destination that management has defined, know how to get there and lead the way. I should repeat that this leadership and innovation is dispersed throughout a good organization and not just in the boardroom. The finishing department supervisor or the purchasing director is just as responsible as the CEO for leadership and innovation.

Plotting the Course

I am sure that most readers have at one time or another used a street-finder guide to navigate around a city. Usually the first page is an overall view of the area. It is broken down into a grid work of detailed maps that are found throughout the book.

Effective management of a small company as well as a large company entails looking at the big picture, formulating short-term and long-term goals, and documenting them on a "road map." Maybe this map is not as detailed as the street-finder guide I just described, but it needs to be specific enough for the members of a company to know where management wants them to go. With this guide, the innovators and leaders in the company know how to focus on the destination.

I was in Atlanta a few weeks ago and had purchased one of these street-finders mentioned above. I was driving from the northern side of the city to a destination south. As I continued on my way, I would look at the guide while stopped at a traffic light. This is similar to looking at and becoming familiar with the goals of a company and where to go next.

This map reading worked well until all of the sudden, I ran off the edge of the page! I panicked. What do I do next? On the edge of the page was a big red note - "TURN TO PAGE 33." What a relief to flip over and be able to continue on the way to my destination.

Management must continually communicate necessary information to the leaders, innovators and every other member of an organization. This way managers can then make the best decisions on how to reach the destination or goals of the company.

Updating Goals

Management must keep looking ahead and make sure the road map is updated. The management of even the smallest company should look five years ahead and define where it wants to be in as detailed a manner as possible. Even a small shop needs this to stay focused. If you are the owner of a small cabinet shop you have just as much relative management responsibility as that of the CEO of a $1 billion furniture company.

The only way to avoid losing your way in this competitive environment is to make sure you have the next page mapped out so that when an employee gets to the edge of the page he knows where to go next. Company after company fails because of a lack of updating its plans and goals and getting caught not knowing what to do next.

Prioritization

While setting goals is one of the major responsibilities of effective management, prioritizing them is essential. Continuing the analogy of a map, leaders and innovators need to know what to focus on next. The road map has many destinations and ways to reach them, but which ones need to be visited first?

After all, if you need to drive to Sacramento, Rapid City, Dallas, Des Moines and Syracuse, how are you going to decide which one to go to first?

If your company needs to improve quality, cut costs, introduce a completely new line of products, begin lean manufacturing training and move into a new facility - what do you do first? What is the most urgent and important need for the success of the company?

The management of the company needs to make these decisions, with broad input of course. Every company has limited resources and those resources must be focused and applied to give the most effective and lasting results consistent with the overall objectives of the company.

Committing Resources

Since every company has limited resources, the capital available for new machinery and equipment is limited and the company has a fixed amount of human resources at any one time. Management makes the decisions that determine what resources will be made available to the company and when.

Therefore, an important responsibility of management is to closely manage these resources consistent with the goals and objectives that have been set. All too often, management lets these resources be utilized without supervision, resulting in bankruptcy in extreme cases of neglect. The essential element of this management function is to let the leaders and innovators know what resources are available in a timely manner.

At critical times in the company's growth, management has to make decisions that will make additional resources available.

Empowerment

There are still a few who do not subscribe to employee empowerment. I make no apology in predicting that they will disappear one way or another. When reviewing this three-part series, a reader must realize that everyone in a company is a leader, innovator or manager. When your human resource department, or you as the shop owner, place an ad in the newspaper for a cross-cut saw operator, you should describe the position as a leader, innovator.

That is not misleading if management has decided to empower every employee in one or more of these categories. It is my opinion that while every company has some level of management structure, every employee must be empowered and encouraged to be a manager, leader and innovator himself, no matter what his job.

Every employee may not have the personality nor the ability to assume all three rolls. Some may struggle to assume even one. This cannot be used as an excuse to avoid the goal. Through training, education and old-fashioned mentoring, everyone can become at least one. Management dedicated to making this happen will eventually manage a successful company.

Controlled Power

Management is often associated with power in the minds of employees and they are correct. Management does wield the power to mold the future of a company. With this power comes responsibility, to be stewards of this ability, and to affect the future of the company and the lives of those who work there.

Good management is not perceived by employees as people sitting in an ivory tower making life and death decisions for the company but as one of them working for the good of all. Management is controlling and funneling the power of responsibility in a positive way that brings the best out in the company leadership and innovators.

Management at every level, from a lumberyard foreman to chairman of the board, must be exercised so that other employees develop a strong sense that the managers know what they are doing, and the company is on the right path.

Everyone Is a Cog in a Wheel

The most important point of this three-part series is that every member of a company is indeed a cog in at least one of the drivers mentioned in this series. No matter who you are in your company, if your company is successful, you have been empowered to be a leader, an innovator, a manager, or a combination of the three. You may be one of only five in your shop or one of 800. Whichever it is, play your role well.

Part One

Part Two

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