Friday, 18 February 2011

Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Followers of management fads tend to focus on the process without being clear about the purpose and goal. Quality systems often led to the destruction of Norwegian pine forests in paper processing. Employees groan under the weight of procedures, without experiencing the benefit of the scheme.

In contrast, leaders who are clear about their purpose and with a vision of what a management tool can achieve are able to communicate this and engage colleagues in creating a system that is straightforward and brings tangible benefits. One surprise for me as a consultant is the number of managers I've met near to retirement who don't want to leave the job because a new leader has motivated them to implement a quality system and given them a renewed sense of having worthwhile career. The system is integrated smoothly in daily work, boosting ownership of process and results and empowering team members. Quality is then 'part of what we do', rather than a fashionable status symbol that is tossed out as soon as a new fad is adopted.

Once a management tool has been adopted and produced results, the biggest challenge is to maintain momentum and prevent it from fading out. Some of the most forward thinking companies I've worked with suffer from this problem, as they adopt new approaches and find it tough to maintain existing ones. The more the approach is integrated into daily procedures and becomes the default way of operating, the more likely it is to survive.

Management fads are not inherently flawed. Following the herd without a clear rationale for adopting an approach is likely to end badly. Failing to communicate clearly and motivate the team to embrace the approach to make it their own is the best way to ensure a management fad collapses and creates resentment amongst staff. Clarify the purpose and goal, simplifying the process to fit and success is possible.

Here's one view on the role of leaders:

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