What is management? | Scoins.net | DJS

What is management?

A very large topic. Not aiming to explain it here in ways that align with other descriptions but to show instead how it can be gently manipulated.

In general, management is an overhead property of any task or set of tasks. I want to write this and so I put aside resources such as time so that it can occur. The management of this process includes what it is that is not being done while writing occurs —and in your case while reading occurs—and all of that is reduced to s simple individual level. Management is also the direction of the task, such as deciding to write this chapter of explanation.

Matters escalate rapidly when  more people are involved and when there is more than a single task in process. [Or, more than a single process in task]. At this elevated complexity there are competing demands on resource and, often, competing demands for result and/or completion. As people and tasks are added to the situation, so complexity escalates. [Models? Square rule, cube rule? Does management style affect this?] Whether this complexity runs into conflict is one of the (many) matters with which management is concerned. 

This then underlines that management per se is not directly bearing upon the task, though it can have significant effect upon the efficiency of the processes included. Thus it is an overhead, an additional cost. 


Does management lend itself to measurement? 

Can it show that it is effective? Surely some management systems can be shown to produce results faster (better in some way) than others. Surely some systems use fewer resources, some have less maintenance.

Does management subtract from the task / process? Subtract here to mean that it adds load upon the sub-processes of any task so that they are slowed to no other gain. Example, that measurement systems which maintain standards may be so inefficient and measure non-useful criteria that quality is not improved and neither is the process speed. So whatever efficiency is, it needs inspection. Whatever management is, it too needs managing.

So approaches to management—specifically, people who only do management—include:

• They are generally parasitic upon the work of the producers. Define parasite, separate from symbiote. Managers do not generate product, they are not front-line workers. 

Example: consider a hospital, with a hierarchy of doctors and nurses all dedicated to caring for individuals with ill-health. The managers of hospitals are often not medical experts in the same way that the front-line staff are; they exist to make the expensive experts cost-effective. This does not necessarily mean that a hospital manager should be paid on the same scale as the specialist medics; they are required for different skill sets.

Example: consider a taxi-service. It has a number of drivers on call and in service at any moment  who may be in some sense self-employed. In order to collect customers they have a dispatcher  who collects incoming requests and allocates these to available drivers. The dispatcher is in effect the manager of the drivers. 

There is a tendency for there to be an assumption that the manager must be paid more than the persons they manage and i question whether this is true and whether it should be true. What applies to taxi-drivers also applies to emergency service units; I am pretty sure that a police dispatcher is paid on a different and lower scale than the policeman being directed, and I think this is right; they are entirely different skill sets.

• They could usefully view themselves as facilitators. The standard view of a manager is 'in charge', when 'responsible for' is a more accurate descriptor.

There is a whole class of educator that views themselves as facilitators  I have come across such people on many staff training days. To an observer it often then appears that the facilitator is short of subject knowledge, because in encouraging their listeners to think and speak for themselves, the carefully not-loaded questions rather imply a lack of knowledge, that this person could 'facilitate' a course on almost any topic, because the delegates are doing all of the work. There is also a meme within student education that encourages the facilitator role  [enlarge, research; further, discover what is good about this and where it is provably useful]

Problems with management include:

• An assumption that managers must be paid more than those they manage. I think that these are different skill sets and should be rewarded on different scales.

• Parkinson's Law—one of quite a few, but I'm thinking of the one that says people rise in a hierarchy to their level of incompetence, one or more levels above their practical level of competence. A common reward for being good at a role is to be promoted to the next level above, which does not necessarily mean the same skills are required any more than it means that the promoted person is ready or equipped for the changed role. Where this occurs the fault lies quite definitely with the managers (well they would be, wouldn't they?) making those decisions. Worse, such decisions clearly occur without preparation (training) nor with assistance (post-promotion help) nor with assessment of success (is the promoted person coping, and what can we do about that). Which includes inspects the senior management decision process, of course.

• Managers need to reflect upon their own processes. That includes us as individuals working on a singular and personal task. It is surprisingly easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because the process was completed, the management must have been adequate. It may have been; there may be a load of previous evidence to show that this is a process well understood and near its optimum. In turn, that might mean that the reflection on the completed task is momentary – but it should still occur, because external circumstances change and we are often unaware of how such external changes can affect a process we had previously thought immune from change.

One issue within this introspection is that quite often there is no such process instilled in the business. Many managers themselves have managers, in the same way that processes are part of larger processes. Thus a higher-level manager has different concerns. But then we should wonder whether part of a manager's role is to look after the whole of the processes for which they are responsible. I say this is self-evident but also that it is clear that this responsibility has been devolved, handed down, but in ways which then absolve the higher manager of responsibility  I say this is a mistake and one that creates problems for all concerned.

why?  Email: David@Scoins.net      © David Scoins 2021