Thinking Managers

Robert Heller of suggests that although the skills of managers and entrepreneurs occasionally look at odds with one another, both skills are necessary.

Managers Must be Entrepreneurs

Managers are often asked to act like entrepreneurs. Conversely, entrepreneurs are often asked to behave like managers. The manager is expected to develop the drive and opportunism associated with entrepreneurship, and the entrepreneur is supposed to become methodical disciplined like a manager.

Is there a real difference, anyway? Peter Drucker wrote best study of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He argued that entrepreneurs are not capitalists, nor investors, nor employers (although this is highly debatable). Part of entrepreneurship, he said, is knowing how to raise, deploy and invest capital. But the great man was on sure ground when arguing that 'everyone who can face up to decision-making can learn to be an entrepreneur and to behave entrepreneurially'.

However, if that is the case, why do managers have so much difficulty in adopting the right behaviours – despite being constantly urged to do so?

The common explanation is that entrepreneurship involves taking risks. That is true, but so does all human activity. The risks involved in an entrepreneurial decision are no different from the non-entrepreneurial risks involved in, say, offering somebody a job.

An entrepreneur is classically defined as somebody who 'shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield'. That is not really a risky proposition: the risk lies in a different definition, offered by Drucker – 'the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits is as an opportunity'.

'Change' is the crucial word here. It carries the risk that your second state will be worse than the first. In other words, say you launch a new, innovative product: if it succeeds, fine and dandy; if it fails, your job is on the line. The calculation is the same one that points executive decisions towards 'No' rather than 'Go'. Approval commits the approver to a different course of action. 'No' maintains the status quo.

Answer yes or no to the following:

1) Are you an evangelist about your company and its products and services, both internally and externally?

2) Are you aroused to the point of competitive paranoia by threats and actual challenges from rivals new and old?

3) Are your views and criticisms 'brutally frank'?

4) Do you have an intense focus on the key business and strategy of the organisation?

5) Do you make a decision and act almost instantly?

6) Do you embrace ambiguity and feel comfortable in situations that are unclear?

7) Do you have good judgment?

If you answered Yes to all seven, your entrepreneurial credentials are sound. Only the final question describes both the old and new model managers. However, even here there's a difference. The new variety of executives put their sound judgment into practice on the run. The quality of decision probably isn't affected. However, the slower-moving manager's loss of time can't be recovered. And the faster events move, the less you can afford to lose time.

The driving features of entrepreneurial success have always been focus, flatness and decisiveness. New management is going back to basics to move forward confidently amid fresh uncertainties. The majority of the old-economy managers have forgotten the entrepreneurial basics, if they ever knew them. They have an urgent need to relearn true management.

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

  Robert Heller