Some confusion seems to exist with respect to several terms we often see used to refer to both the governance documents used to guide and control an organization and the functional positions of a manager, an administrator and a leader. This paper will discuss the relevance of the terms, and their place in creating an effective and flexible organization
Over time, the evolution of methods tp ensure that large, diverse organizations function smoothly and toward a common purpose has resulted in two interlocking structures. One is procedural, the other is communal.
The procedural system is most often captured in the organizations guiding documents which fall into four categories, Global, Strategic, Tactical and Functional. These are designed to guide the most common activities. Let’s look at each in a bit of detail.
Policy: (Global Vision):
The guiding principle of the organization is usually captured in a vision or mission statement. This is the fundamental reference when any questions arise as to whether a present course or action is aligned with the overall intention of the group.
It is not unusual for individual teams within a large organization that develop their own vision and mission statements. These provide a unique focus which aligns with the overall ‘global’ vision of the organization.
(The descriptions below for Strategic, Tactical and Functional procedures apply at all levels of the organization.)
Strategic: The overall direction intended to achieve the organizations vision is usually expressed as a goal, or more often, a set of goals.
Objectives sub-divide goals into more manageable tasks which allow focused activity, the development of specific plans, establishment of milestones, etc.. We often see the goals and objectives combined into a single, compact document that includes a mission statement.
Procedures evolve as the means of capturing an organization’s operational methods. In contemporary organizations these usually take the form of a ‘standard’ set of documents:
- Operations Manuals
- Organization Charts
- Job Descriptions
- Membership lists & Rosters
- Operating Budgets
- Operating Handbooks
- Functional ‘Tools’
The above constitute what is often referred to as the ‘Set of Procedures’, and are designed to guide the most common activities and day-to-day operations. However, as often quoted from Helmuth James Graf von Moltke; “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” This truism expresses two factors that prevent any documented system from maintaining complete relevance to all situations. The first is the inevitable “phase delay” that must exist between a constantly changing environment or field of activity and the creation of a well thought out, and captured procedure for handling a situation.
The second is our limited view of possible future alternatives. This was best expressed by Lewis Carroll when he wrote; “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” If this were not the case, we could write procedures to handle all past, present and future conditions. But, until someone finds the mythical ‘crystal ball’ that allows us to predict the future with complete assurance, some other methods of adjusting team reactions to changing conditions needs to be in place. That method is referred to as ‘Management’.
Since it is obvious that no documented set of procedures can anticipate all conditions and provide the needed guidance, we seek to establish groups of leaders with the experience, background and training that will allow them to develop solutions to new hazards and adjust to changing situations. We call them ‘managers’. We ask that these individuals ‘manage’ the new situation by directing the rest of their organization toward the optimal solution to new problems. To do that, the ‘manager’ must also be a master of the current operating systems. He must be a good administrator.
A good administrator understands the overall organization, its vision, goals and objectives, and is adept at using all the functional tools that have been put in place to accomplish the mission. This also means that he is good at ‘bean counting’, and can ensure that the operations are working within the constraints of both the financial and personal limitations that constitute the reality of the situation in which he finds himself and his team. One of the primary attributes of a good administrator is prompt and timely action to maintain the currency of the functional systems that document and direct overall operations such as updated plans and regular reports. These systems form the ‘feedback loop’ for the organization, and help eliminate the need for managers to constantly check to see if they need to ‘adjust’ the direction of their teams.
Part of being a good manager and administrator involves perceiving that changing conditions may fall outside the current operating guidelines and procedures, and that there is a need to develop new directions or modify the team’s direction to continue to accomplish the overall vision. As a leader, it will be your responsibility to guide your team through new situations, and to train them in new ways to operate. To quote Jack and Suzy Welch; “When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
In the ideal manager, we would seek an experienced individual who’s understanding of the team’s goals and objectives agree with the global vision, who has command of the operating procedures, can administer the tools to keep the operating systems current, and keeps ‘in touch’ with both the current conditions of the world around as well as the individual members of his team.
From the start of taking command, one of the primary concerns of a leader will be grooming his team members to step up and take over his job. To a great extent, management is a training function, and a prime objective is to nurture future leaders and managers from among his team. Just as a sports team is always training players who are ‘on the bench’, a prudent manager is always preparing his team members to take over alternative positions when one of the team is ill, on vacation, accepts a job in another country, has an accident, etc.. Only by preparing his team members to ‘cover’ each other’s functions, and his job, can the tea