Management has 3 functions, World Cup style

April 22, 2007...... at 11:07 pm | Posted in thoughts | Leave a comment

I was having a chat with a colleague Neil the other day on the function of management. He was of the opinion that the best managers he’s worked with have been facilitators. I agree that facilitation is one of the key functions of management but I ask myself facilitation of what? It is this ‘what’ which speaks to the other 2 functions of management: negotiation and communication. I love cricket so excuse me if I indulge a few cricket analogies to illustrate my point.

Senior management always get to bat first, so middle management’s first task is to negotiate an acceptable target. Giving your team a mammoth target to chase is a sure recipe for failure. This is where experience is invaluable, being able to read the pitch. Each innings is different and needs to treated as a unique case but you need to be able to borrow on past experience and identify innovative winning strategies in every case. If you always play leg spinners bowling outside of leg-stump into the rough you will be seen as seen as defeatist by senior management. However, from a team perspective you need to be seen to restrict the opposing team to an achivable target.

Brooks’ Law states that adding late resources to a project whose complexity you underestimated is just going to make it later. Management has a duty to either negotiate the right project scope at the outset or negotiate a reduced set of functionality during the project term. In cricket this is known as preparing the right pitch or setting the right field to restrict the opposition to an achievable total.

After the first innings, the negotiation phase, its time for your team to perform. This is where communication comes to the fore, each player needs to know exactly what is expected of them. Obviously each members role and responsibilities change in the ebb and flow of the game – this needs to be communicated. You can’t have someone blazing away with the bat if what’s needed is an anchor role. If the team needs 230 to win the match and progress to the next round then everybody needs to know this.

Facilitation is the stuff you do when you’re not negotiating and communicating. It is the easiest overlooked of the three management functions, but it is also the skill that can make the most difference in the lives of your team. Peak performance is always a matter of flow and anything you can do as the captain to get your team members into flow is vital.

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