The time has come for Sri Lankan managers to go back to the basics in management. Our managers were successful to an extent, managing in an environment that was very volatile due to three decades of war. The current scenario is much different and demands that we review the basics in management, specially the basics in managing people. One must understand and genuinely believe (form an attitude) that a manager cannot work alone in an organization. He/She needs the assistance of many people, and people on the other hand are highly motivated or demoralized depending on how well they are handled by their superiors. It is people who will either lead the organization to success or act to destroy it. Which way the organization goes totally depends upon its managers.
What is the secret of excellent management? Doing the basics right is the most accurate answer and the initial steps towards this goal is to “evaluate oneself” as a manager and be a good assistant. Organizations should support managers to enhance their skills to “know thyself”. The manager should be a good assistant to his/her own superior. There is a huge tendency today for people to bring problems to their superiors in a piecemeal fashion. The good manager would always analyze the problems, work out solutions, and present it to his or her boss in a form such that the superior needs only to approve it or disapprove it.
Basically, a manager has to look into four aspects of management and their integration. Initially the manager must endeavour to improve and reform work for the sustainability and prosperity of the organization. We owe it to future generations to hand over a workplace/country better than what we inherited. Just imagine what our country would have looked liked if our fore-fathers ruined it in the same manner some are doing it right now. Next, the manager must carry out the functions of management properly to achieve goals and objectives of the organization. This means that the basics of planning, directing, controlling and coordinating be done properly. A manager does not carry out these tasks separately. In fact, it is almost impossible to dissect these tasks and label it. For instance every manager must understand that when giving directions under normal circumstances he or she should request the person to do the task. E.g. Siripala, “shall we load the lorry?” Instead of saying,” Siripala load the lorry!”. The latter should be used only when the situation needs tight control. Thirdly it is important to develop subordinates as individuals and as groups. The manager himself/herself should develop skills to develop individuals and groups. Finally manager must relentlessly strive to understand human behavior. To this effect it is important to encourage subordinates to actively participate in the efforts to achieve organizational objectives by assigning them suitable duties and responsibilities. This can be done easily by building trust. A good leader would integrate the fours aspects described above and demonstrate effective leadership.
For the aspects of management defined above the manager must have certain basic stances. He/She should have the will to achieve and have an active desire to put things into practice through clarity of thought. A never say no attitude is sure to complement the efforts. He/she should always challenge status quo. Constantly, the circumstances surrounding the organization are always changing. The manager must aggressively strive to challenge the current structure and solidify its operating foundation. Another stance expected of the manager would be to possess a sense of mission/philosophy regarding the basic foundation of management in his/her workplace. It is important for the manager to be an effective judge of circumstances and figure out trends. There is a debate today whether managers should approach management in a more scientific approach. The better approach would be to manage more scientifically and with respect to humanity (Mother Nature). One might ask why respect to humanity? Observing laws of nature is important, because as long as an organization consists of people the “principle of humans and human groups” their behavior and characteristics must be understood and respected. Efficiency awareness is another critical stance that a manager should have. The Japanese explain efficiency as the elimination of Da-Ra-Ri or Muda (waste), Mura (inconsistency) and Muri (unreasonableness). This concept is the foundation for productivity improvement as well. Greater efforts of the manger are required to eliminate inconsistencies and unreasonableness to improve productivity in Sri Lankan organizations. With regard to inconsistencies for example the inconsistencies in compensations and benefits reviewed annually and action taken promptly will enhance employee morale in the workplace.
The most important job a manger has is decision making. When a manager makes a decision he or she needs to exercise sharp animal like senses in some occasions, or rely on wisdom learned through experience, correct understanding of principles and rules . The manager also needs to consider human morals and basic business ethics. In making the decisions manager should not hesitate or flinch. He or she should exercise sound judgment by matching the place, the time and the situation involved.
Head of HR
Aitken Spence PLC