Research Analyst
July 26 - Aug 1, 2010

Organisation owes its progress much to the processes that go inside such as planning and decision making, actions and interactions, creativity and innovation, and last but not the least, corrective adjustments and improvements. Individuals and groups play most critical role in making the processes successful or otherwise. In this article, we discuss the specific role of managers in this regard.

A candid eye can witness two orientations on the managers' specific role: Managers do what suits them and delegate what they like as they are the owners of all the processes. In other words, managers have people to get their jobs done. If the people do their jobs well, managers achieve their goals successfully. For instance, managers achieve their performance targets if the sales persons sell successfully and conversely. Here, the managers' specific performance role is to sell either directly or through other people and they perform part of it themselves and delegate part of it to others. Usually, managers tend to retain decision-making and delegate execution. Typically, two problems occur in this situation. While divorcing the decision-making from execution makes the decisions less realistic and hence cannot be optimally enforced, it de-empowers the execution process. Put it differently, in this situation managers begin to compete with their colleagues for there is always tug-of-war between the two for ownership and more importantly, for authority. In extreme conflict situations, managers begin to confront, disable, and de-synergise the whole process only to prevail.

Luckily, not the whole culture is like this. One can also witness an alternate situation parallel to the above which is more productive and sustainable. In this latter situation, the manager takes the role of a true facilitator of the process. In other words, the manager provides the direction and resources, and delegates the authority to make decisions and execute. This manager accomplishes organisational (not managers') goals together with other individuals. The good part of this culture is that no one works for someone else but for the group to which he or she is also an integral stakeholder. Secondly, each individual develops a stronger focus on his or her diverse (unique) role and hence can contribute more. Finally, empowerment spreads. However, this culture is not free from limitations. Deep rooted hierarchical (status focused) culture and practices are the first barrier to its success and refer to the general practice of identifying people by their position in the hierarchy and rewarding them by their stature.


Implement shared vision and values: Often visions and values are considered mere statements and commandments not needed to be translated into every one's key performance indicator.

It has been observed that the execution team has a tendency to perform tasks ritually without keeping in mind the macro picture. Once all the team members come to know about the organisational goals and their performance appraisals are also in tune with the same, they will keep in mind the bigger picture and hence are able to take relevant decisions at their end.

Make organisations prevail over individuals: Often individuals distort the organisation's directions and processes with their personal interpretation and sometimes interests.

We repeatedly observe instances where potential and competence take a back seat in the face of opinions based on personal interests, perceptions and packaging. Whether the individual is a customer service officer, an operations manager or a chief manager, the moment they let their personal issues or understanding substitute the prescribed processes or over-rule organisational goals, it is the organisation that suffers a blow.

Recognize individuals by their roles:

Often individuals lose sight of their true roles by the emotionally satisfying designations.

A team is well focused to achieve results when every member follows the specific role assigned to him or her regardless of designations and hierarchy structure. For instance, a manager falls short of his role as a facilitator, counselor and leader when he is more concerned with retaining authority and control than any thing else and thus fails to see the necessity to improve, innovate and move forward. Similarly, when hierarchies are adhered within work groups, it always proves detrimental to the work group synergy. Likewise, assigning independent goals to group members sparks dysfunctional competition within the group. The same must be avoided by staying focused on organisational goals.

Develop leadership culture to empower everyone: Often top designations and presence of heroic individuals undermine the need for developing leadership culture.

Leadership culture flourishes when no specific role is considered less important than the other and every team member gets an equal chance of performing to full potential. Concentration of decision-making powers with a select few is a common practice in our organisations for issues as diverse as petty cash expenses to the need to visit a potential customer.

Enable creativity and innovation:

Often followership culture dominates so much that actions and even thinking of individuals are controlled by the legacies of the senior followers.

Empowering execution process and showing confidence on those engaged in the processes give way to practicality and out of box thinking, leading to creativity and innovation, the most desirable traits to survive in a competitive world.

Demonstrate willingness to improve:

Often change is talked about but for others and no one is willing to change him/herself inside out.

Unfortunately, change is usually understood and undertaken as a face-lift something concerned with how the organisation is projected. The need to improve processes and employing resources to the optimal level is somehow not considered equally important and when it is the stress remains on reinventing the wheel with objectives more tilted towards personal aims and ambitions. Unless the change management policy is well-defined and spelt out in a clear and unambiguous fashion complete with clearly defined roles, road maps and policies, change will be restricted to renovations and temporary hiring and at best, represents re-branding.