b-school, Business, Henley, Management, MBA, Thoughts

Management is facilitating, not doing

I’ve been thinking about management these days. Probably because I’ve made a lot of management too. And because I’m learning how to do it at the same time.

Reminds me of a book I read by Mintzberg. It was called “Managers Not MBA’s”. You might think that with that title I’d abhor it. But I don’t. In fact it was packed with a lot of ideas that made me think. And as long as they make me think, regardless if i agreed or not, they were interesting and useful. At least to me. Yes, I’m a pragmatist.

His objective: casting a doubt into MBA formation. And that is always a good idea. Don’t accept ideas or facts without truly comprehending them, without making them yours, without reflecting them, without doubting them first.

One of his ideas: many business schools give you a lot of analytical abilities. But that doesn’t make a manager.

It’s great to have analytical abilities. These you can learn at business school, at engineering school and learning economics or operations. These will help you make decisions, decisions that belong to a company’s everyday practice, much needed decisions that must be made to advance. You’ll be able to analyse and choose the best road.

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But is it what managers do? Is it what managers should do?

Well, my answer to the question is negative. If those are programmed decisions, that fall into the category of everyday practice, you don’t need managers for that. Given a set of tools anyone that possesses them can analyse and resolve. Maybe you need economists, psychologists, engineers, architects, experts of any kind, but not managers.

Managers should have analytical skills, and should be able to make this kind of programmed decisions, at least to verify them, but true managers are aimed for more.

Managers must be able to deal with uncertainty, tackle with changing situations, engage in challenges, face dilemmas. That’s far more than analytical abilities. Some of those things are just inborn, like leadership. You can train some of them, you can improve your skills, but you can’t change yourself. You can unleash your potential, work through your leadership tools, but you can’t impersonate a leader.

There’s more to riding your ship through the storm than knowing how the storm works, you must know your ship, your fellow sailors, yourself. Fear is the mind-killer. (thank-you Star Trek) Know yourself, know your team, know fear, act and you’ll arrive safe.

The captain won’t hold any rope, he won’t even be able to look to port and starboard at the same time. He must rely on others for everything. Just like a conductor in an orchestra: he will play no instrument at all.

IMHO, the manager is a facilitator. He will help his team achieve. He will be able to see the context as well of the tasks. He will think of his team, and all the stakeholders too, and he will be able to reach an equilibrium.

And at the end of a day he will reflect and see he didn’t do it all. He just managed. Humbly.

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3 thoughts on “Management is facilitating, not doing

  1. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you to read Mintzberg’s “Managerial Work: Analysis from Observation”. Althought it is quite old (dating back from the end of the 60s) and the methodology he used is quite weak, it is probably one of the most influential papers on management and leadership. He was one of the first ones to observe that being a manager is neither just being a foreman nor being a planner.

  2. I’ve just fetched it on EBSCO and it’s quite interesting 🙂 I’ll write about it.

    I’m not really trying to comprehend all the possible meanings of management, just give my five cents from my everyday experience. From theory sometimes, to experience as in this case.

    Best regards

  3. Pingback: Mintzberg and his analysis from observation of managerial work (updating from 1916 to 1971) « Gabriel’s scarcity rent

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