Practical Managerial Skill – What Business Schools Don't Teach You

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Even highly experienced managers and executives with MBA degree from popular Business schools do flounder many times; many subordinates at times are left to wonder how bosses could become laughing stocks through shameless display of their idiosyncrasies, short comings and high headed egotism.

Why are so many managerial short comings like setting unrealistic targets, time frames and budget allocations, – delays in project implementation, cost over runs, aborted missions, understaffing, over staffing, over-enthusiasm in taking up unwieldy projects, unwillingness to take up a challenging tasks and so on are frequently encountered in many organizations?

Could there be any deficiencies in the oft-quoted managerial functions — planning, organizing, delegating and controlling – that cause the failures?

After observing many managers in my corporate life, I identified one single cause that seem to be working behind many of above managerial failures, and perhaps this subject may not have been included in business school curriculum. And it is: “the capacity to assess the work content in any given task”.

When a manager lacks the capacity to assess the work content in any given task, the very process of planning, organizing etc to carry out the task gets built on a weak foundation.

What are the factors that underlie in a manager’s lack of this fundamental capacity? They are basically three:

1. His alienation with technology / latest trends within his sphere of activity

2. His growth in the organization ladder to wider area areas of responsibilities

3. His egotism

Let us look into each of these more in detail:

1. Alienation With Technology:

As long as a manager’s activities and responsibilities lie within his field of specialization, and provided he keeps his ears and eyes open, it is not an impossible task for a manager to keep himself abreast with the latest trends / developments in technology in the related fields. Where his knowledge is up-to-date, it is not difficult for a manager to assess the work content in a new task undertaken in a related field.

But there are managers who have difficulty even within their small circle of responsibility. The reasons are:

  • Their pre-occupation with administrative and bureaucratic matters rather than technical matters

  • Aging

  • Lethargy, complacence and sense of comfort in the presently acquired status

  • Lack of basic capacity to grasp newer technologies

  • Conservatism etc

2. Widened Responsibility

As a manager grows up in the corporate ladder, it is quite natural that he gradually drifts away from his previous levels of specialization and expertise. In other words, he grows up to become a non-specialist, learning in the process, a little of many things, but not adequate enough to feel completely confident and knowledgeable about any specific area.

Many managers seem to take pride in taking up more and more responsibilities in their fold at times to unmanageable limits. While some managers pump in extra efforts to towards self improvement by a continuous process of reading, observing and acquiring the relevant knowledge that their newer position demand, a vast majority of managers do not care to put conscious effort towards self-improvement.

3. Egotism

This is by far the greatest factor responsible for a manager’s inability to acquire the capacity to assess the work content in a task. The “I know it all” syndrome, the overwhelming pride many managers have that they have risen up in the hard way, the heady sense of pride that comes to the managers along with their past successes – are the outcomes of the ego factor. Where the ego reigns supreme, learning stops. Logic, reasoning, receptivity to suggestions and inquisitiveness to learn new things are driven to the back seat. Autocracy rises its dirty head; rest of the downfall begins.

Are we then to conclude that if the individual manager lacks personal capacity to assess work content in a new task, he becomes unfit to be a manager?

Not necessarily. If the manager happens to be knowledge of the intricacies of the task in hand, it is wonderful. But his lack of knowledge would not be a hindrance if he is bold enough to admit: “I don’t know”. Only from this admission emerges his willingness to seek out, to ask those who know, to consult those who know better.

Experts in the field of management repeatedly declare that a manager need not be knowledgeable in all the spheres of activities under his control. But he must be sure to know where to seek, whom to consult and where to get data. And this list many times includes his own subordinates, who might know better on the nitty-gritty of the task. Undoubtedly, egotism is the biggest hurdle that a manager, who aspires to succeed, has to successfully overcome.

The moment a manager is able to visualize the work content in the task, he is all set to proceed with planning, organizing and the rest of his managerial functions towards achieving the end results.

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