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Friday, November 9, 2012

8 Evolution of the Manager’s Job

In this lecture we address the following questions:
•           How has the complexity of products and services trended over the last 50 years in the following fields?
–          Consumer product design, production and marketing?
–          Health care?
–          Banking?
–          Government?
•           Will this trend continue?
•           How has the change in complexity changed jobs and workers?
•           How has this changed the role of managers?
Management developed to serve the assembly line for relatively simple products. It was adopted from the command structure of the military, the only existing model for management at the time, other than religious organizations, which typically have management structures similar to that of the military. This was a reasonable approach since workers of that time were primarily “manual” workers so that “good” workers needed to follow instructions and be efficient. A manager could measure worker performance by the quality and quantity of work performed. The work environment was not unlike the military so that the military based management approach was effective at that time; when it wasn’t used to oppress workers.
Products and services (public and private) have become more complex over the years and tend to change more frequently. Much of this new complexity is enabled by the rapid development of low cost electronics, computers and software. This increased complexity leads to creation of more and more job specialties and we can expect the trend to continue. These new specialty workers are knowledge workers rather than manual workers; they make decisions and they plan, organize, integrate, motivate and measure, just like executives.
Managers pre-WW II usually were experienced in several different jobs and often skilled in most of the jobs they managed because they had worked these jobs as they progressed up the organizational ladder. Modern managers cannot be experienced or skilled in most of the jobs they manage because the jobs change as fast as their careers evolve. As discussed in the introduction to this course, the flatter organizations popular today mean less opportunity for promotions and therefore less opportunity for new experience that prepares a manager for more senior positions. Therefore today’s managers must lead and motivate specialists without having the skills of the specialists they are leading. This is a key reason Theory Z management style is more effective than X or Y in today’s work environment.
To summarize this lecture: Modern workers are “Knowledge” workers. “Good” workers are effective; they must get the right things done as well as doing things right. Therefore the old performance measures don’t apply. Today managers must measure results that are typically not traceable to the quality and quantity of work completed by the knowledge workers. Today managers shouldn’t “manage” knowledge workers in the traditional sense. Peter Drucker says you must know the strengths and knowledge of knowledge workers and lead them so that their specific characteristics make each of them productive. (See p. 81, The Essential Drucker by Peter Drucker)
1.         Compare the goods and/or services produced by your organization today with those produced five and ten years ago. Do today’s goods or services offer more features? Are they more complex as a result? Is the quality the same or changed?
2.         Compare the business processes used to produce your goods or services. How have they changed compared to the processes of five and ten years ago?
3.         Are workers with advanced degrees or special skills required in the production of your goods or services?
4.         Would you classify workers in your organization as “manual” workers or “knowledge” workers?
5.         Do you understand fully how to do every job that you manage or hope to manage?
6.         Given your answers to questions 1-5 would you say that a traditional manager is best for your organization or is a manager that knows the strengths and knowledge of each worked needed to make them productive, as described by Drucker?
7.         Which management style (Theory X, Y, or Z) best fits the task of managers of knowledge workers as described by Drucker?

If you find that the pace of blog posts isn’t compatible with the pace you  would like to maintain in studying this material you can buy the book “The Manager’s Guide for Effective Leadership” at:
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