Tag Archives: role of the manager

Who Makes the Decision?

From Outbound Air

“Exactly,” Catherine beamed. “As long as nothing changes, your teams do not need you. They can handle all the routine decisions and problems. But, you know that something will change, something always changes. This airline operates in a world of uncertainty. You helped define a number of standard operating procedures. Your teams know how to handle weather systems, flight delays and lost baggage. They know how to re-route customers. They even know what to do in the event of a computer outage or a security breach.”

Catherine stopped to let this sink in, before she continued.

“But, what happens when our load factors on a route fall below the level of profitability for a thirty day period. Should they cancel all the flights?”

A wave covered the room. Some stared down at the table, some stared at the ceiling. They did not avoid eye contact, but, instead, looked inside to connect to some logical response. Javier broke the silence. “No,” he was emphatic. “First, that is a decision they do not have the authority to make.”

“And, why not. The routes are unprofitable, why shouldn’t your shift supervisors cancel those flights?” Catherine challenged.

“It’s not their role to make a decision like that?” Javier replied.

“Says who?” Catherine baited.

What Do We Need a Manager For?

From Outbound Air

“Right then, if your teams can carry on the same way tomorrow, then what do I need you for?” Catherine stared sternly in the eyes of her executive team.

Peter looked around to see if someone else might fill the void of silence. It was Mary’s turn. “You are absolutely right. My team can carry on the same way, day after day. And they can make decisions and they can solve problems, as long as those decisions and problems are the same as yesterday. But, here’s the rub. Something is going to change. It might be a weather system, a mechanical delay, or a broken flight connection. Something is going to change and that’s when they will need me.”

“Exactly,” Catherine beamed. “As long as nothing changes, your teams do not need you. They can handle all the routine decisions and problems. But, you know that something will change, something always changes.
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Back to the central question, how do we define the word -manager? What is the role of a manager?

Self Directed Work Teams?

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

This question came from a different thread I follow, but it is a very interesting conundrum.

Question:
We operate manufacturing facilities in several states, with each Plant Manager, reporting to a VP who is about to retire. We are considering the elimination of the VP role. Have you experimented with or implemented self-directed work teams. Are there any lessons to be learned before this decision is made.

Response:
I have to wince. Wince is an involuntary response to pain which has not yet happened. I fear there is already bias to experiment with self-directed work teams and endure the predictable pain. But, it is still a fair question.

In my second book Outbound Air, the CEO asks a similar question.
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“Come on, you arrived at work this morning and came straight away into this meeting. Your teams are all out there, without you, making decisions and solving problems. How do they know what to do today?”

Finally, Peter spoke up. “Sounds too obvious, but my team is mostly doing their work today, the same as they did, yesterday.”

“And, if I hold you in this room, through tomorrow, how will they know what to do tomorrow?”

Peter was on a roll. “I suppose they will carry on tomorrow the same way they carried on today, the same way they carried on yesterday.” He looked around to see if anyone else appreciated his humor.

“Right then, if your teams can carry on the same way tomorrow, then what do I need you for?” Catherine stared sternly in the eyes of her executive team.
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This question strikes at the very heart of management. How do we define the word -manager? What is the role of a manager? I will let you kick this around for the day (comments?) and we will pick this discussion up tomorrow.