Thinking Managers

Robert Heller of suggests that it is all too easy for managers to become fixated on some tasks while ignoring others.

Augean Stables Syndrome

Radical, all-embracing, joined-up, fused management is needed to escape the Augean Stables Syndrome. Hercules, you will recall, had to grapple heroically with a filthy stable that was no sooner clean that it again became dirty. Companies customarily concentrate on whatever Augean Stables confronts them most painfully, only to find that, with the old problem solved, a new and equally serious horror has emerged. By the same token, what succeeds obsesses them, sometimes to the extent that they fail to notice that the winning light has failed.

In these unhappy episodes, management and other systems are heavily reorganised until the CEO and his cohorts feel that proper control is again being exercised. Greatly improved results seem to support their case. But these improvements come from gathering the 'low-hanging fruit'. They leave unresolved the root causes of the crisis.

The only safe bet is to give due weight to everything that matters at all. That applies to both companies and to individual managers.

The need for individual fusion becomes obvious when you ask which is more important: delegation, motivation, or leading teams? Obviously enough, delegating to unmotivated people is pointless, and teams cannot work effectively as teams without delegated powers and high motivation. The same type of interdependent relationship applies to all other management skills – communication, decision making, problem solving, and time management.

Time management perfectly illustrates, at the individual level, the overriding problem of the Augean Stables: that managers know perfectly well what to do, but don't actually do it. They know that managing time is fundamental to everything else. Unless you, as a manager, control your time effectively, you must fail on other counts. Time management is what determines your effectiveness by balancing your workload.

In this context, delegation meets one of the prime requirements for the Fusion Manager. It enables you to exercise personal responsibility for the delegated task, without having actually to do it.

The well-known, unbreakable link between employee satisfaction and customer happiness is another demonstration of joined-up management. You cannot expect workers and staff to serve the clientele to the latter's satisfaction when the company people feel badly served by their management. A management’s prime purpose is to so direct the strategy and operations of the company that it provides security and progress for all parties – the employees (including managers), the customers and the shareholders.

Managers in bad times often blame a demotivated workforce for their troubles. The great W. Edwards Deming would have none of it. He put 85% of productivity problems down to management.

By working through highly motivated teams of many sizes (right down to a 'team' of one person), and giving them fully delegated powers to tackle their fully delegated, highly specific tasks, you can hope to cover every problem, opportunity and operation. Truly joined-up management creates a family of teams, working together internally and externally. If they work well, then the Augean Stables will be clean, and stay that way.

About the author
Robert Heller is one of the world’s best selling authors on business management.

  Robert Heller