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Started by fenderstrat on Mar 15, 2018 10:59:42 AM
Managers and mangerialism

A subject that's been on my mind since withdrawing from full-time work in the public sector. I'm struggling to see where most management adds value and I'm interested in posters' experiences and views.

Is management a true discipline with effective and unique practices?

Have we degraded technical or domain knowledge and expertise and replaced it with something else? Or do domain experts need professional help from skilled organisers, for example.

Especially interested in experiences from education, health and social care.

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hailesaladdie - 15 Mar 2018 11:11:19 (#1 of 108)

Depends on the field, I guess.

Where I work, junior management is basically mentoring, admin, resource management (i.e. telling projects how much of people's time they can have and when, and not letting them overwork your team) and communication. As you move further up, the scale of it gets bigger, so the questions change.

However most organisations I've worked with still struggle with the difference between domain skill and management skill. Some have tried to recognise the former more, and give status to people with it equivalent to management skill, but it never quite works. Otherwise, there's always an element of Peter Principle that ends up happening.

fenderstrat - 16 Mar 2018 08:06:16 (#2 of 108)

There was a lot of enthusiasm at one time among QI consultants in the NHS for High Reliability Organisations. Respect for expertise was one of the defining characteristics. That seems to have dropped away recently.

I have had several interactions with consultants who have been sent into Trusts as transformation or improvement experts. I have never been even close to being impressed. And here's a rather shameful confession: I just never thought they were very intelligent. I don't like that sort of judgement, but I found it very hard to avoid it.

Eyes glazed over at detail, nuance; no ability to imagine medium or long term; formulaic responses; completely corporate in loyalty.

In two shameful cases, improvement consultants who had quite clearly failed completely were subsequently sent back by national bodies to the same Trusts.

Sorry, that was a bit of a whinge.

RosyLovelady - 16 Mar 2018 08:22:58 (#3 of 108)

Disregard for experts and their expertise nearly became government policy.

Intowntonight - 16 Mar 2018 09:01:45 (#4 of 108)

Particularly when they say things you don't want to hear.

FleurDuMal - 16 Mar 2018 09:08:37 (#5 of 108)

My experience that (some) junior management can be very good (my current manager falls into that category, unlike my previous one).

I genuinely don't know what they do at a senior level, and it is evident that they don't know what we do either.

Moschops - 16 Mar 2018 09:09:14 (#6 of 108)

One of the better project managers I worked with stood up at the beginning and said to us "My role is your shit umbrella, to try to prevent as much shit hitting you as possible"

FleurDuMal - 16 Mar 2018 09:09:57 (#7 of 108)

In two shameful cases, improvement consultants who had quite clearly failed completely were subsequently sent back by national bodies to the same Trusts.

MrFleur was a middle manager for a large financial organisation at one point. His experience of external consultants was that they held a series of meetings, asked questions and then fed the answers back to the senior management, along with a hefty invoice.

FleurDuMal - 16 Mar 2018 09:11:39 (#8 of 108)

One of the better project managers I worked with stood up at the beginning and said to us "My role is your shit umbrella, to try to prevent as much shit hitting you as possible"

That is precisely what a good junior/middle manager should do. Unfortunately, all too often, they tend to just try and enforce the crazier management directives on their minions.

Under my previous manager, this approach caused me to take time off sick with stress and put me on Prozac for six months. Thankfully, he fucked up big time and is no longer with us.

cozzer - 16 Mar 2018 09:21:18 (#9 of 108)

Mangerialism can be useful when there's no room at the inn.

SheikYerbouti - 16 Mar 2018 10:52:24 (#10 of 108)

What do monglers and mingmong think about this topic, that's the question I want answering.

fenderstrat - 19 Mar 2018 08:03:38 (#11 of 108)

These are quotes from a report from NHS England on a CCG.

The breadth and depth of issues requiring remedial attention are significant and cover immediate, medium and long term timeframes in respect of leadership, planning, delivery, governance, workforce and external relationships.

the need for clear, urgent and potentially brave decisions

The diagnostic work heard a consistent message regarding the need for a stronger evidence of gravitas and grip backed by a clear consistent approach.

The staff would welcome and embrace an enabling and constructively challenging environment rather than a reactive and negatively critical approach.

We welcomed the review… Since then the CCG has taken a number of significant steps, including the appointment of an executive lead for stabilisation and transition, led a governing body programme to improve the way the CCG works, and engaged with our staff and membership

rearranged - 19 Mar 2018 08:38:31 (#12 of 108)

Management is very much a set of skills, and can be learned.

Unfortunately most British businesses, charities and public sector bodies don't seem to realise that, and think that either being in a job for a while, or thrusting arrogance are the basic necessity and everything else can come through osmosis. And it just isn't true, and leads to stressed managers, pissed off teams and general poor performance.

I don't particularly like US business culture, but boy, do they do a better job of teaching management. And it isn't just the Americans, many countries seem to do it better.

It seems to me that the role of a junior manager is indeed about mentoring, workload management, administration and so on.

Middle management is about doing developing team managers and oversight of teams, but also about influencing strategic development and implementing strategies once decided.

Senior management is about oversight of the whole business and setting the goals of the busines, setting strategic goals that are challenging but achievable, identifying risks and opportunities, and, crucially, planning for failures so that they can be mitigated. And that includes planning for when they leave, expecially if they go at short notice.

I would expect all managers to be trained intensively and regularly. And would expect all managers to be able to step into a more junior role, and a pre-identified portion of junior managers to be able to step up into a more senior role.

fenderstrat - 19 Mar 2018 08:59:58 (#13 of 108)

On a personal note. I have a first degree and a PhD in a “hard” science, an MBA and have graduated from a public body’s top leadership programme. Plus the usual plethora of professional courses. I’ve also had to learn social science in some depth over the past 19 years.

I worked as CEO of a medium sized manufacturing company for 10 years, as a management consultant for five and a senior public servant for seven.

In all of this time, I’ve met perhaps hundreds of managers, mostly without any domain knowledge. At a guess, maybe 5% were any good, but they were good administrators. I’ve known some brilliant leaders, which is a bit different, and they usually didn’t have formal management training; they simply got stuff done and brought people with them for good or I’ll.

Senior and middle managers in the public sector are generally terrible with people and ineffective in their goals.

So...... What’s it all for? What’s the meaningless language if not to convince others and themselves that there’s a unique discipline? If you took them all away, and left leaders and domain specialists, what would be the change? Would we save money? Would we achieve more?

rearranged - 19 Mar 2018 09:25:02 (#14 of 108)

I’ve known some brilliant leaders, which is a bit different, and they usually didn’t have formal management training; they simply got stuff done and brought people with them for good or I’ll. 

That's interesting because the Army, an organisation focussed on leadership for centuries, believes that leadership is absolutely something that can and must be taught.

It believes that there are certain qualities an individual must have to be trained to be a leader, but that the idea of a born leader is a nonsense.

SunkenTreasures - 19 Mar 2018 09:27:09 (#15 of 108)

The army's idea of leadership tends to start with a private school education.

rearranged - 19 Mar 2018 09:32:24 (#16 of 108)

And yet they sent comprehensive educated me to Sandhurst.

And a large proportion of thosebin my Company who had gone to private school had done so because their parents were in the armed forces and had a choice of boarding school, or change school every 18 months to 3 years.

fenderstrat - 19 Mar 2018 11:03:23 (#17 of 108)

That's interesting because the Army, an organisation focussed on leadership for centuries, believes that leadership is absolutely something that can and must be taught.

And I would certainly agree with that, though I also think that like any discipline, to be excellent you have to have a gift. I remember listening to an interview with Angela Hewitt (the concert pianist) where she said that skills and techniques must be developed but to be a real artist, the gift will be the thing that takes you there. Mileage may vary, of course.

As an aside, some of the very best leaders I have known have come from the military.

But - there is a difference between managers and leaders.

RosyLovelady - 19 Mar 2018 11:08:20 (#18 of 108)

One of my two worst bosses was ex-military. He arrived at the college as Bursar with three obsessions.

1) Everyone's on the fiddle unless they can prove otherwise.

2) There are enemies here who must be found and rooted out, and then some more most be found etc.

3) The students must be made to smarten up their appearance.

rearranged - 19 Mar 2018 11:53:31 (#19 of 108)

But - there is a difference between managers and leaders.

Very much so, although the best manager I ever had (by far) was also a superb leader. She inspired such confidence that everyone would have done pretty much anything for her.

She had superb technical skills, was a really good administrator, a brilliant mentor and knew when to defer to others.

It was gutting when she decided not to return from maternity leave, especially as the replacement had none of those skills or personality traits.

staticgirl - 19 Mar 2018 11:59:34 (#20 of 108)

One of the worst managers we ever had was ex-military. She just expected everyone to do her bidding when she ordered it whether they were in her team or not. We didn't because we're a bunch of snotty hippies and punks. She gave up and got a promotion elsewhere. It wasn't her fault it was just the wrong culture for her.

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