Good managers are crucial to any organization large enough to contain leadership and front-line personnel. Why? Because good managers understand how to work within, what I call, the “Both-And Theory of Effective Management”. My theory asserts that to accomplish a high-level organizational goal, clear and steady purpose must be communicated, and passionate translation of that purpose must take place in the form of detailed strategic planning, process, procedure and training. In other words, the manager must first know, understand and embrace the larger vision and then dissect it and turn it into useful information; communicating corresponding processes for each area of the organization. These elements of responsibility share equal importance. Without one, the other will suffer and ultimately cease to exist. Instead of erring on one side of the equation (either/or), both adaptability and efficiency should be sought after strengths of good manager.
“The crew’s attachment to procedure instead of purpose offers a clear example of the dangers of prizing efficiency over adaptability.”
– Stanley McChrystal, US Army General, Retired Author: “Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World”
Executive leadership is responsible for communicating mission, vision and purpose to managers within the organization. Managers then have a responsibility to turn that valuable yet sometimes abstract information into strategy; designed to implement concrete processes and procedures and champion the cause by communicating that strategy effectively and purposefully.
Strategic planning takes time. It requires creative thought, collaboration, questioning of current processes and procedures, and engagement with those who will be performing the tasks required. Sometimes, team agility is not as robust as one would expect. This is where a manager’s role is critical. Having the ability to translate purpose into action is no small task. It takes dedication to and understanding of both vantage points in order to bring them together and experience productive outcomes.
Managers – you can’t share something you don’t have. Without having a solid grasp on the desired outcomes and a plan to bring those outcomes into reality, the manager will not be able to create the buy-in needed to move forward. If you find yourself in a position where you don’t have the depth of understanding you need to adequately address your teams and build a plan to move forward – Ask questions until you have what you need! This period of translation often takes more time and effort than executive leadership is comfortable with – but clarification improves efficiencies. In other words, you “do it right so you don’t have to do it twice”. Therefore, it is time well spent. Your fully informed perspective is a critical to the organization’s success.
Leading Edge: If executive leadership believes that because they’ve given the mandate – everything else should be easy, they should be kept informed of the progress being made during this crucial translation period. There are so many articles being written to encourage executive leaders to stay in the room and participate in the planning process. Even as an observer – listen for the levels of detail and expertise your teams bring to the table. I promise you will hear things you never thought about that directly affect your plan. Granted, you may not hear all of the “real issues” which they must face as they take on associated tasks, but you will get a glimpse of the magnitude and depth of attention the project your decision requires.
As an executive leader, details may not be “your thing”, and that’s ok. Try to engage long enough to appreciate the insight and the collaboration necessary from your team members to make your dream their reality. Once strategy is formulated, it is passed along to the front-line personnel who take appropriate action toward accomplishing the goals laid out in the strategy; thus, fulfilling the purposes for which the organization exists. The manager is your translator; interpreting the purpose (vision or mission) into actionable items, leading to the desired outcomes.
Cheers… to purpose, understanding, a passion for translation and success!