Many managers come by their position based upon experience in a particular function. Accounting managers are people who have many years of experience in accounting. Engineering manager have many years of engineering experience, operations managers have experience in production, sales managers have experience in sales. But few new managers have experience in management and most new managers run their department based on examples and notions that they have about management. There are many managers that think that management is simple and needs no study. These managers will often fail to provide consistency and continuous improvement.
Management is not so different than any other function. There are skills and techniques that a manager should know in order to be a good manager. These skills and techniques are available from business courses at colleges and in management articles. Without a working knowledge in management skills and techniques, the new manager will run his function intuitively. Often this means that the manager will be the boss rather than the manager.
What's the difference?
A manager controls his operation using managerial skills while a boss controls his employees using people skills . A manager takes a broad focus and changes perspectives to meet the situation. A boss takes a command perspective to manage his employees.
The difficulty in becoming a skilled manager comes not from too little information but from too much information. A manager with 20 hours to focus on improving his skills will find a bewildering number of courses that dissect management skills in fine detail but he will be hard pressed to find a simple, straightforward set of guidelines and instructions. Then too, many courses focus on managing people which is just one of many perspectives that a manager should take.
One well known school offers management courses in 23 areas without emphasis. The manager who wants to hone his management skills can end up learning marketing, finance, accounting, human resources, information technology, project management, communication, etc. All these topics are slanted toward management skills but they do not cover the most basic management techniques (or if they do, I can't find them).
If it were up to me, I would refocus the courses around control and improvement and I would rank the subjects according to primary, secondary and optional. Primary courses would be the ones that every manager should know no matter what their functional responsibilities. These would be the courses which provide the best results for a sensible effort. They would be the everyday management skills. They would satisfy the 80-20 rule (roughly 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the effort.)
The primary courses should be:
Management Control - These techniques are designed to provide a manager and his organization with consistent results. One control topic would include feedback, analysis and modification. Feedback tells the manager what parts of his operation are running well and which parts need to be analyzed and changed. Continual analysis and change gradually brings the operation consistent results. Moreover, by seeking to match the best feedback every time period, the managers will optimize his results. Also under management control are topics about organization, standardization, customer satisfaction, corrective and preventive action, process audits and management review.
Improvement - Management needs to set objectives each year and make plans to hit those objectives that are different than the previous year's results. The improvement steps are setting objectives, selecting projects that will attain the objectives, planning the selected projects, implementing and validating results. Managers can hit pitfalls when setting objectives and choosing promising projects. A helpful curriculum should layout a practical process that avoids pitfalls.
Resource Management - Managers need to maximize the usefulness of their resources. Resources include people, equipment and facilities. Because people are a resource, all of the human resource issues need to be taught for this topic. This includes skills analysis, training plans, motivation, hiring and firing, personnel policies and career planning. Resource management also includes working conditions and space. Comfort, lighting, sound, air quality, order, work flow and stress are 7 issues that can contribute to working environment and the quality of work. Some of the resource issues will be uncovered and resolved under management control, but the effectiveness of resources is so important that it is given a separate topic.
These three topics are primary to a manager. Once a manager tackles and succeeds in these areas, he may pursue other management topics. But the point here is these are the 20 percent in the 80-20 rule. A manager that utilizes these techniques will effectively manage his operation. Any additional knowledge will either be in support of these issues or will be advanced topics. Secondary topics include organization, utilization rates, maximizing capacity, time management, managerial decision making, information management, functional management and management perspectives.
Optional topics include finance, accounting, IT, documentation, advanced analysis, process planning and topics relative to the manager's function.
I have purposely left out six sigma, lean manufacturing and ISO 9001 because proponents of those disciplines will insist that they are primary while I think they are secondary and some managers will consider them optional. I will let the reader decide where they belong.
I have written other articles in this series that cover Management Control, Management by Objective and Resource Management. These articles introduce primary topics in management.
With insightful guidance many companies can unlock profits, start new initiatives and release hidden potentials. Jay Jacobus is a consultant who advocates basic concepts, uncomplicated methods, clear explanations and confidence building results. Learn how to improve resources, controls, operations, results, sales or productivity. Jay has a background in management, ISO 9000, quality and consulting.