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Basic Business Cents: Is leadership or management the answer?

By Lou Schultz / For the Enterprise

A friend gave me a hard time this week because I alluded in the last column that the term, manager, is outmoded and we should look instead to become leaders. Yet, in the citation of my name and position, I used the term, Managing Director. I thought he had me until I thought further. Hopefully, we manage things and lead people.

To succeed and prosper, any organization has three basic things that it must manage well: strategy, process inprovement/innovation, and culture.

Leadership should supply the direction or aim of the organization, and then with as inclusive of a group as possible, develop the method or strategy to achieve the aim. All employees must understand and buy into this long-term objective and the approach to reaching it.

Leadership should supply the training for all employees to understand that all work is a series of processes and they can do no better than their process will allow. Therefore, employees need to chart their work processes, understand that no process is perfect, and constantly work to improve their processes and look for better ways.

Leadership should supply the opportunity for all employees to share the behavior traits that they would like to see from their fellow workers, up, down, and across the organization. From this discussion(s), a set of Operating Principles, Behavior Guidelines, Values, or whatever you choose to call them, can be developed to guide interaction of employees on a day-to-day basis.

The retired Director of the Juran Center for Quality at the University of Minnesota has stated that he thinks, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” I tend to think that these three things to be managed are of equal importance but this individual was stressing the importance of managing culture as it is often overlooked. Yes, culture is a thing that can be managed.

When all employees have had an opportunity to develop these behavior guidelines and have ownership of the result, they are much more likely to behave accordingly and remind coworkers of doing likewise. A simple one-page survey can be conducted of all employees quarterly on how well different parts of the organization are complying with these guidelines. The intent is not to single out individuals but to monitor how different segments of the company appear to others. Examples are peers, front-line employees, top leaders, and supervisors. The survey simply asks that each segment is to be scored on a basis of 1-10, with 10 high, for each behavior guideline. Results are shared with everyone and they can see where more focus is needed.

As the diagram shows, Leadership is at the center of each of the three activities to be managed that are important to the success and prosperity of the organization. With these activities properly managed, leadership will blossom throughout the organization and the people will lead themselves.

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently works wit h area business owners as a SCORE counselor. Email him with questions or comments at lou@process

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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