Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Taking the pledge

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has now launched its Better Managed Britain campaign. The institute asks managers and government to pledge their support and sign statements about how well they will manage and support managers. Will the campaign work? A strategy based on ‘If only we push harder this time’ while the broad message remains the same is unlikely to prove transformational. More importantly, it’s worth noting that lots of managers managing well or better does not on its own produce a better managed organisation (or even Britain).

The discipline of Systems Thinking propounds the principle that one cannot optimise the whole by breaking down the parts and then optimising those separately (as the systemic leadership model explains). Competency frameworks for individual managers, better qualified managers, and more use of training fails this test. That is not to say that these do not make a contribution, but if they are necessary they are not sufficient. To use a familiar analogy, you cannot improve a fishtank by improving the fish. If that was possible, we wouldn’t need organisation development as well as management development.

It’s like wine. If a group of friends come round for dinner and drink a lot of really good wine, it helps but of itself it doesn’t produce a good evening. The wine is just one ingredient. What matters as well is what complements the wine, of which food is a vital element. But even that doesn’t suffice. If a dinner party is to be successful we need a host. The host chooses who is there and provides the reason why they come together. It’s then a matter of the quality of relationships and ‘connection’; what conversations take place in the spaces between the participants? What do they have in common? What do they value? What do they want to happen? Organisations are like that. If the CMI wants managers managing better to result in better management for the organisational 'host' it needs to heed that lesson.