Key Management Concepts

Effective Management Techniques to become a Leader

With the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor, the management of the business corporation developed a scientific orientation. Taylor’s approach, called “Scientific Management,” brought the idea of system and method to the working world. Since Taylor’s day, the science of management has moved ahead on the basis of concepts and innovative thinking contributed by industrial psychologists, management experts, and others dedicated to the world of the corporation. In this section, you will find the major foundation stones of contemporary management wisdom. Taken together, they form the theoretical background on which progressive management practice is based today.

Progressive Management Techniques

Some of the popular management techniques commonly used are –

Management By Objectives

Basically, Management by Objectives is a simple concept: it is job performance and achievement guided by results desired. There are two types of applications.

Unit performance

The method may be used to set guides and evaluate results for departments, divisions, or whole companies.

Individual performance

The Management by Objectives idea may be applied to the work of individual executives, managers, and employees. It is in this latter application, as a tool for motivating and measuring individual performance, that Management by Objectives can help the executive develop and evaluate subordinates. An early innovator in the field, General Mills of Minneapolis, started to apply the Management by Objectives concept in 1957: People from front line management echelons upward set job objectives for themselves after their immediate superiors presented them with statements of their accountability.

An “accountability” is a result that the company expects for the satisfactory performance of the job. Each job at General Mills has from three to ten account-abilities. Accordingly, each manager of the company is annually presented with a list of three to ten results that he must accomplish—whatever the means he chooses to accomplish them. A company spokesman gives an example: “I’m responsible for ensuring that our salary structure compares favorably with our competitors’.

A front-line manager might be held accountable for maintaining an effective workforce.” After the front-line manager has drawn up his statement of account-abilities, he writes out certain specific objectives; for example, “To improve the performance of employee John Doe by January 1.” The manager creates as many of these specific goals as he thinks necessary to satisfy every accountability the company has placed upon him. When he finishes, he meets with his superior to discuss whether the accomplishment of these objectives will satisfy the account-abilities. If need be, he modifies his objectives:

Adds more or Changes Some

The method can be summed up in three steps: Superior and subordinate work out realistic performance objectives. They agree on the means for achieving specified results. At the end of the agreed-on period, actual results are compared to expected results. The manager commits himself to specific, measurable action with specific time limits. In so doing, he obviously takes the risk that he may fail and that his superiors will know he has failed. Observers of the management scene have noted these problems in connection with Management by Objective:

Heel-Dragging Participation

In one company that tried to pursue an MBO program, resistance showed up during the orientation workshops. Some recalcitrant were insecure managers, afraid to give up the comfortable old ways. Others were afraid to be under the spot-light of having to tell their superiors what results they would achieve. And there were others who had been on plateaus. They weren’t happy about having to stretch themselves—which MBO forces on a manager. The participation of some managers was only half-hearted. As one executive observed: “They would get a business call and have to leave. Or they would prolong the conversation about the need for objectives so as not to have to write any. We encountered many delaying tactics.”

Setting of Low Standards

In discussions with his boss, the subordinate sometimes committed himself to objectives that involved no challenge, hoping thereby to overachieve. One executive reports on these situations: “Men would become embarrassed, found difficulty talking about their conceptions—or misconceptions—of the job. Or a superior and a subordinate would both get embarrassed because both had misunderstood the subordinate’s job. Sometimes the subordinate and his boss would realize, simultaneously, that the boss had failed as a manager—because he had not communicated what was expected of the subordinate.”

Problem of Quantification

The difficulty in quantifying objectives can be a big stumbling block. For example, an executive of the Internal Revenue Service New York office, commented: “We tried to implement MBO for our group supervisors. But we found it difficult to set an objective for morale and attitude, which are the two most important contributions of our people.” There are other jobs for which morale, willingness, call it what you will, is important. This can be a soft spot in Management by Objectives. Clearly, the value of MBO is largely comparative. But it is still superior to past methods for goal-setting and performance measure. Until a better tool comes along, it is likely that applications of MBO will proliferate.

Sensitivity Training

Sensitivity training developed in the management field out of a felt need. A growing segment of management came to believe that an executive’s effectiveness depends largely on his interpersonal relationships. The problem of effective leadership then becomes one of the executive relating more effectively to his subordinates, colleagues, and so on. It is to this problem that sensitivity training addresses itself.

Sensitivity training got its start about 1946, as a result of work done by psychologist Kurt Lewin of M.I.T. In that year, Lewin and others conducted a workshop at the State Teachers’ College in New Britain, Connecticut. Since, the workshop was divided into several groups, each with its own research observer. In the course of the workshop, Lewin became aware of two things. People who had been part of the same group experience had differing perceptions of what actually had occurred.

Conduct Discussions

Discussion of “my perception of reality” produced some startling interactions. One example, as recorded by the research observer: At 10:00 a.m. Mr. X attacked the group leader and then X and Mr. Y got involved in a heated exchange. Some other members were drawn into taking sides. Other members seemed frightened and tried to make peace. But they were ignored by the combatants. At 10:10 a.m., the leader came in to redirecet attention back to the problem, which had been forgotten in the exchange. Mr. X and Mr. Y continued to contradict each other in the discussion that followed.

What had been created in 1946 is known today, variously as laboratory training, sensitivity training, and the T-group (training group); and it promises methods of altering the behavior of groups and individuals, and increasing their operating effectiveness. “Sensitivity training,” says Chris Argyris of Yale, one of its proponents, “is one of the most effective tools we have for developing human relations skills.”

Benefits of Progressive Management

  • Firstly it improves an executive’s control over personal frictions among subordinates.
  • Secondly, it gives him the ability to work more understandingly—and constructively—with his superiors and colleagues.
  • Next it enables him to get subordinates and colleagues to “level” with him, be more open in day-to-day dealings.

The T-Group Experience

About 60 percent of the total time of a typical sensitivity training course is spent in T-group meetings. In each group there is a staff member, usually an industrial psychologist, who guides the group to some extent. It would be a mistake to call him a leader, because he does little or no leading. In the first session, the staff man usually explains that the group will study behavior, that there is no agenda, and that any learning that occurs will depend upon the group itself. With that, he stops talking.

Since each unit is composed of different individuals, no group will operate in exactly the same way. Often a period of silence occurs—embarrassed, even awkward. Eventually, someone may suggest a topic to discuss, or the members will introduce themselves, or a participant will take it upon himself to try to lead the group. Whatever happens, the actions and statements of individual members are fair game for exploration. It usually isn’t long before the talk is free-wheeling. One contributing factor is, of course, the desire of the participants to gain as much as possible from the training. Another is the relative anonymity of the setting—executives from many companies who’ve just met and who’ll be together for only a brief period. As a result the comments become open and personal. Individuals who have participated in sensitivity training dwell at length on the vividness and depth of the experience.

Two Key Facts

Although this controversial training method has been winning wider acceptance, problems continue to hinder progress. Two hard facts emerge: Sensitivity training works. A recent two-week program of sensitivity training at Bethel, Maine, sponsored by the National Training Laboratory, boasted a completely filled out roster of 120 participants. At the end of the two weeks, a sampling of opinion among the participants drew reactions that ranged from extreme enthusiasm to opinions such as, “Quite interesting;” and “Fairly helpful.”

The point is, these latter views were the most negative expressed. None of the participants felt the experience was a waste of time or harmful in any way. While, the large majority dwelt on the success of the program in increasing the individual’s self-awareness, and sharpened perceptiveness to the feelings and attitudes of others. And these people did not talk in generalities. They pinpointed specific benefits they had gained that increased their abilities in dealing with people. Applications are a problem. Not only the participants, but the professionals who conduct T-group sessions stress the obstacles to applying the benefits on the job. The lore of the building trades provides a simple parallel: “You can’t add new to old,” says the plumber, the carpenter, and the stonemason.

The Managerial Grid

Dr. Robert R. Blake and Dr. Jane S. Mouton, professors at the University of Texas and associates in the management consulting firm of Scientific Methods, Inc., Austin, Texas, have developed an approach based on a so-called “organic theory of change.” They reject a static, mechanic view of the organization, seeing it, rather, as a developing set of interdependent networks of people. Their main emphasis, therefore, is on improving work relationships.

Dr. Blake and his associates feel that the most effective type of management is that of an integrated team operation, both from the standpoint of production and of an organization’s ability to adapt swiftly and appropriately to rapidly changing conditions.

The “managerial grid” approach (see illustration p. 217) has two basic premises: (a) a manager or management can be measured according to two variables—a concern for people and a concern for production; (b) the best management is team management. If one accepts these premises, then the grid can be a useful tool in analyzing the manager’s efforts as well as those of his subordinates. On the grid, “concern for people” is measured vertically on a line divided into nine sections: “concern for production”  is measured.

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