Friday, November 02, 2007

A manager's job

Here's a philosophical question for you on a Friday. What is a manager's job?

Is it to lead a group? To direct people's actions? To manage and control the progress of an organization? To make decisions? To solve problems? To follow directions from above?

While all of those may fit in the typical manager's day, I think the foremost responsibility of a manager is to create and manage human and organizational systems that will get the correct things done.

As managers, we have the responsibility to get things done through our organizations (as a one-person company, I'm counting myself as a "manager without portfolio"). If we believe the mantra that events are part of patterns and patterns are caused by structure, then our task is to create the structures that will lead to the sort of patterns and events we seek.

If we focus on individual problems and decisions, we're focusing on events. That will lead us into the perpetual task of trying to address more and more events, and we risk being overwhelmed. We're perpetually pushing against the tendencies of the system that's there.

If we make it our business to create and maintain an organizational system that gets the right work done, we create a "machine" (a system) that gets the work done for us with less effort and fewer problems. That's how I helped an organization reduce its budget variance by 95%, and that's part of what I meant by praising "lazy employees." While you're working on this system, remember that it has business, technical, and people dimensions, which all demand attention!

So if you are a manager, your real role is that of a (human and organizational) systems engineer.

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