Everyone is a Manager

Everyone is a Manager

This feature article is a continuation of the “Shift” series of articles – discussing the series of mind-shifts that will radically transform and improve any industrial operation in today’s world – a world of constant innovation and change. This is the third part in the “Shift” series.

“Everyone is a manager” …as far as the workplace is concerned! Everyone manages his or her own work activity, process or a string of activities. While they may not wear the moniker of “Manager,” each of them is a subject-matter-expert (SME) and can therefore comment-on, add-to and decide-on most process matters within their areas.

There was a time when managers and supervisors decided everything. Not any more – the current competitive and participative environment is geared more towards driving knowledge down to the lowest levels in the organization.

Hoarding of information, restricting knowledge within select groups or individuals and such-like inward-looking actions can and will stifle a company in the long run. If you ask yourself “how many activities are there in the company that can only be done by one person proficiently” and come up with “one” as the answer, you are in trouble!

Most staff members are “knowledge workers.” It takes time to learn the job and even more time to get really good at it.

The expertise-concentrated organization, where only select individuals are informed about activities, is a thing of the past. One “expert’s” absence can slow down the process and two or more can take down the enterprise! One warehouse I reviewed was crippled when two or more staff went on vacation at the same time! In fact, employees were discouraged from taking extended vacations especially around public holidays.

Disseminating knowledge and training back-ups is the way to go. Most staff members are “knowledge workers”; they are not “labor workers”, regardless of the color of the collar, whether they push bearings or paper. This knowledge is priceless. It takes time to learn the job and even more time to get really good at it.

What is missing in the workplace is a means to tap into that reservoir of knowledge, make it accessible to others such that we have a more “universal staff” – people who can do more than one activity competently. Versatility is the key as is the willingness to learn new things, try new ways and contribute to the betterment of the workplace.

Besides, if more people can do a job implies that job-responsibilities can be shared more widely, vacations get easier to plan and managers get more relief! Some items to review might be simple things like the procedure for approvals – signatures, dollar expense thresholds, etc.

Some require signatures in duplicate and triplicate. They may be outmoded policies. Review to see if the approval authority on these could be attenuated to let individuals on the line decide. Sometimes, the thresholds for dollar amounts requiring signatures can be raised so that only high-dollar items require manager approvals. This placement of trust in the employee goes a long way in building goodwill.

Empowering people to make decisions in the best interests of the company has replaced “waiting-on-the-sacred-word-of-the-manager” approach in many organizations. When individuals are empowered, they realize that their input and contribution is acknowledged and will step up to the plate and be more accountable.

The converse, where the individual does nothing voluntarily until prompted to, is a slippery slope that eventually leads to mistrust, widespread disenchantment among employees and eventual company non-competitiveness.

Read Shift 1 – Paradigm Shifts to A World-Class Organization
Read Shift 2 – Moving from Control Management to Commitment Management

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