What is the “Labor-Waste” elimination system under the “Scientific Management” school of thought?
Any management philosophy in today’s world that attempts to treat highly diverse groups of individuals as the same and does not appreciate them as human beings in their own context is bound to fail. The best ideas and suggestions come from empowered front line team members who are the closest to the customer. Enlightened leaders will understand that the person with the best information is the leader on any given topic, and often that person is the frontline leader. Requiring standard methods at the expense of individual creativity can stifle innovation.
For some businesses, particularly those involved with physical assets, control of assets in some fashion is critical and scientific management can assist in training workers on standardized methods of control. For example, UPS has billions of dollars of machinery that moves every day and is highly dangerous if moved in the wrong direction: think airplanes, trucks and forklifts being driven in the wrong direction. People will get hurt. Contrast this with a software start-up where scientific management would kill the ethos and creativity of the company. Perhaps UPS will evolve its system over time to be more of a coaching system to individuals so they can develop their own unique strengths.
Are you studying the future first?
A manager’s success is directly related to the distance into the future that the manager can anticipate events, develop a vision, and empower their team to act in concert with that vision on a day to-day basis. Studying the future is by far the most important role for a truly visionary leader. Studying the present is second, and studying the past should come last. The more business leaders study the past, the more likely they are to become mired in old business models, old ways of thinking and old habits.
A “re-evaluation of all values” is often necessary for a leader and their organization to survive rapid changes in technology, politics, regulation, climate, competition, levels of demand, and consumer tastes. Such a re-evaluation will certainly take into account all the facts from the past and present but, most importantly, it will be grounded in a clear view of future developments in their technology, cultural, consumer, political, and regulatory environment.
Are you managing your people or your technology?
As organizations evolve in today’s market, they are using more and more technology. However, that technology is becoming easier to use, easier to manage and far more seamless to integrate into an organization. Think about the ease of use of an iPhone versus a Blackberry. Today’s cloudbased applications require little technology talent on the part of the organization that uses them. They are intentionally designed to empower the human side of the organization. As organizations shift more towards “boss-less” organizations, communication technology is critical to empower teams to hold each other accountable.
Yes, major technology decisions and in-house technology talent will always be important, particularly in the area of IT security. Likewise, technology talent will always be important for leaders to possess so that they can understand the technology trends that are impacting their business. A leader who is client-server focused, for example, will have already likely missed the transition to cloud technologies and may be entirely clueless on blockchain technologies which will disrupt the cloud.
Should leaders fire a top-performer who doesn’t adhere to the values of the organization?
Yes. It’s always the right decision to fire an employee—regardless of their level of performance—if they don’t fit the values and culture of an organization. For example, a high performing employee may show disrespect for employees. In today’s environment, this disrespect could very easily create far more liability for the company than any profits this “high-performing” employee produces. Someone who disrespects other people may also be prone to sexual harassment or other violations of various labor laws that could create liability for the company and drive away employees.
The current $3.5 trillion spending bill in Congress would also make directors and managers personally liable for violations of labor laws and proposes fines that could be very substantial if a manager fails to correct a persistently abusive employee situation. Fundamentally, a company’s values system are only values if adherence to them is required. Values are nothing more than the behavior that is observed. Once you have an “exception to the values” practice, then the values become like Swiss cheese and stop meaning anything. A political environment develops where certain “friends of the boss” have special “privileges” in that they can routinely violate the company’s values with impunity. This will not produce a healthy, well-functioning corporate environment. It will produce a highly politicized and ineffective work environment.
How can leaders help their employees succeed so that they work harder?
The best thing a leader can do to motivate their employees is to help them succeed in their career. This means subordinating the leader’s own ego and needs to the needs of the employee to receive the individualized coaching that will help the employee succeed. Every employee requires something different and, by giving this kind of individual one-on-one treatment to the employee, the leader will help the employee achieve greater career success.
The effective leader will also supplement their own leadership with leadership coaching from third parties, leadership training, and other career development tools that can help each of their employees succeed on their own individually chosen career path. The leader can also give the employee autonomy with a new project or task that can help the employee build confidence to move forward in their career. A leader who constantly takes from an employee by not appreciating the employee’s need for a successful career will find both their employee’s career and their own organization suffering. Managing employees requires nurturing and care over a long period of time. A leader who carelessly disregards the needs of an employee for respect and individual attention can lead to even the most loyal employees looking for a position elsewhere.
What are some examples of transformational, transactional, and charismatic leadership?
Transformational leaders have the talent of being able to both create a long-term vision for the organization years, if not decades, into the future, while at the same time motivating team members to act in concert with that vision on a day-to-day basis. The longer the time span of the leader’s vision that inspires the team to day-to-day action in concert with that vision, the more effective the leader will be. Given today’s fast pace of change in environmental, social, technological, political, and regulatory environments, transformational leadership is required for any organization to be successful long-term. Some industries such as retail have been more rapidly transformed by technology than other industries and these require particularly transformational leadership.
Wal-Mart and Target have invested deeply in transformational e-commerce leadership and have seen their investments pay off with both retailers having fast-growing online businesses. Sears and Kmart took a different approach and did not invest in transformational e-commerce leadership, and they found themselves in bankruptcy.
Sometimes the company is in a short-term turnaround situation where transactional leadership is required instead of transformational leadership. For example, the cruise industry has been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The successful cruise industry leaders were, by necessity, very transactionally focused on executing key financing priorities to provide sufficient liquidity for these businesses to survive the pandemic. In other cases, charismatic leadership is the most important leadership skill, particularly when the vision is clearly established, and the team requires motivation to “step up” to the task ahead of them. A charismatic leader can help the team climb a mountain that they did not think they could climb. Start-up leaders might fall into this category and use their charisma to help their team overcome the fear, uncertainty and doubt that are common in start-up situations. Start-up leaders might require charisma particularly when the vision for the new product or service is clear and the question is simply, can we build this product?
In summary, transformational leaders bring about innovation and change, and they challenge people to look at old problems in new ways. Transaction leaders clarify the role and task requirements, create structure, and provide rewards. Charismatic leaders inspire people to do more than they thought they could do.
How can you empower followers?
Perhaps more attention is given to leadership than followership in management training and education because it’s assumed that people want to strive to be leaders. Yet organizations consist mostly of team members and individual contributors, and the most effective organizations find ways to empower everyone on the team. For example, a highly effective organizational culture focuses on the value of team members by empowering followers to pursue their own critical thinking. The best cultures give everyone a chance to lead when they are the person in the room who is closest to reality. Anyone, regardless of rank, can be a leader if they are the person with the right answer for the leadership question or the right behavior of the leadership situation. A non-autocratic, non hierarchical culture where followers are encouraged to speak up and challenge the status quo is critical for this type of “follower leadership” to develop.
In essence, an effective follower has the same traits as an effective leader: facing the brutal facts, close to reality, challenging and probing, contributing, and staying silent as necessary. In fact, being a good follower is a critical talent to learn before someone can be a good leader. One cannot command without first learning the discipline of how to obey. The prison experience is an excellent school in how to obey the hundreds of different rules we prisoners follow every day.
Learning how to obey all of the numerous and unforgiving rules of Federal Prison Camp Montgomery will make me a better commander and leader when I am “back on the street.”
What type of leadership do flat organizations require to thrive?
Leadership in today’s flatter organizations is even more important than in hierarchical organizations, especially if you define leadership as a leader’s self-awareness of which of their traits is a strength and which is a weakness in that organization. A flatter organization will require the leader to adapt to numerous leadership styles depending on the wider variety of team members who report to the leader. Some of these team members may require direct commands and direction, whereas others may require an entirely hands off, “check in with me once a year,” approach.
The leader must have the self awareness and emotional fortitude to manage across that entire spectrum. This diversity of management approache requires strict discipline on the part of the leader to conform their management style to the needs of the follower vs. their own egotistical needs. This is servant leadership at its best in terms of subordinating your ego to the ego needs of your team members.
How can leaders become better communicators?
A training program to become a better communicator might include the following components:
- Susan Scott’s book Fierce Conversations. This book provides an extensive discussion on how the best cultures are very close to reality and provide numerous suggestions for ways managers can improve their ability to get the “elephants in the room” on the table for discussion. In a poorly functioning corporate culture, the “elephants in the room” are never discussed in meetings and are left for side conversations and gossip. A strong leader will address these matters squarely and publicly if needed to eliminate gossip and provide direction for the entire team, even if the message is one that people don’t want to hear.
- A meeting code that the manager can use for meetings. Some items on that code might be that everyone is given a chance to speak up. “We face the brutal facts without fear. We discuss the elephants in the room that people are afraid to talk about. If you don’t participate, then why are you here? The leader in the room is the person closest to reality”…etc.
- Public speaking training. Sometimes new managers may struggle with speaking before large groups. Training in this can improve presentation skills dramatically.
Who needs to know what about strategic plans?
Does a minimum wage employee in the janitorial department at a hospital really need to understand the strategic plan for the hospital? Absolutely. Never underestimate the importance of front-line workers in helping organizations achieve their strategic plans. Management hubris often leads top-level executives to pay little or no attention to the feedback and ideas of front-line employees, particularly minimum wage employees such as the cleaning staff. This is always a mistake. A person’s wage level does not determine the level of their ability to contribute to the organization.
For example, in today’s COVID-19 era, if the front-line cleaning staff is not aware of the strategic plans of the hospital, the cleaning staff may not take the additional steps necessary to prevent the spread of COVID in the facility. This could then create a cascade of negative effects that can impact the strategic plan of the hospital. Perhaps the cleaning staff, unaware of the strategic plans, fails to take some action that then leads to a hospital-acquired COVID-19 infection, which then generates negative publicity for the hospital.
Another example: Currently, I am employed as janitor in the Education Department at Federal Prison Camp Montgomery, earning a minimum wage of around 30 cents per hour. As a minimum wage front-line employee, I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be included in any strategic plans and decisions of the prison Education Department. For example, the head of the department told me a few months ago that there was an important inspection coming up in November of this year and that she wanted to make sure the education building was extra clean ahead of the inspection. Knowing this strategic information, I suggested a fresh coat of paint on the interior walls of the department would go a long way to improving the overall appearance of the department. My supervisor agreed with this suggestion and proceeded to paint the interior walls of the building. In sum: frontline workers can have a direct and important impact on helping any organization achieve their strategic goals and, as such, they should be included in all communications on strategic plans.