A manager is essentially a person that gives direction, provides leadership and decides how to use resources to accomplish organizational goals (Daft, 2008). As a person having been in the workforce for almost twenty-five years, I can say with experience, that managers and the methods they use to obtain organizational goals can make the difference between success and failure of a project and even an organization. A managerial philosophy is something that all managers develop over time as a result of their experiences in the workplace.
Over the last twenty years I have been exposed to a variety of business and managers that have helped me shape my personal managerial philosophies that I currently employ on the job. Before I get into the exact philosophy that I apply in the workplace it is important to know a few aspects about my past experience and some of the roles I have played to truly understand the rationale for my personal managerial philosophy. One of the first jobs I had in my career was in the printing industry.
Coming from a family of printers, I was exposed to all aspects of offset printing and the production processes that were used in this field. My father owned the tenth largest printing company in the United States throughout my early years in printing therefore; I had an inside look at aspects of business that many never had at this young age. I was required to work up through the ranks in my father business and show my skill in every area of production before I could become a manager. In time, I was ultimately running a night shift of eighty employees.
In printing the product is mainly created in an assembly line process and there is little margin for error if there is any profit to be had. A good manager in printing commonly focused more on speed of production and zero errors more than the overall happiness or well being of the employee. The attitude was there was always another worker to replace someone if they were too slow. Training and support occurred as needed and managers were viewed as trouble shooters and delegators. This created an extremely stressful work environment and it had a very high turnover rate.
The roles the managers take in this setting is similar to the roles mentioned in the reading concerning the roles managers take. Managers utilized informational, interpersonal and decisional roles, but on a very small scale in most cases (Daft, 2008). They informed and made decisions using methods that were very direct and usually absent of employee collaboration. My father utilized a very direct method of communication with workers as well and although it was direct it was often abrasive and was more of a managing by fear than anything else.
This was my first exposure to management and unfortunately it was a method that I employed as a manager in my early days so it was a bit hard to change and I still go through rough spots at times. Over the years, until my mid twenties, I worked as manager in printing while pursuing a degree in Computer Aided Design. I continued to utilize similar practices my father did as a manager with some success and some failures. I was very direct with workers and in some cases it resulted in abrasiveness and lack of true teamwork and collaboration.
This was my method early on as a young manager and it worked in the printing industry, but as I moved into more administrative work engaging highly educated professionals it proved counterproductive. My career path began to redirect a bit in my mid-twenties as I graduated college in the area of Computer Aided Design and 3D Visualization. I began to work in Architectural Design field with professionals that had a slightly different mindset than I have previously dealt with.
This was a very different mentality as well as a different production process than the printing industry and it required a bit more tact when dealing with employees. The common worker in this field was a highly educated creative type that was motivated by good design work and client satisfaction. The process used in design was far from the assembly line processes that I had been exposed to in previous years. Although I did not work as a manager right away, over the years I began to rise in the ranks and become a supervisor and team leader.
I slowly began to shed some of my directness and started to listen more to fellow employees input and began to realize that teamwork and collaboration in the planning stages of a project was more productive than dictating. Instead of dictating to workers, I began to concentrate more on the involvement of the workers and how I could enhance their work through positive reinforcement and active input and training. This began to work well and it is something I continue to do to this day. As I progressed in the design field I began to teach part-time at a local rofessional training center in the area of design and that eventually led to my current position as a college administrator. This role is a much larger role than anything I have done in the past and it has many complex elements that are pushing me to use more diverse methods of management. The college I currently work for has been in business for almost twenty years and has recently acquired accreditation by the North Central Association. The school is privately owned and has been through several changes over the years that have created the exact structure and culture that drive it.
The top managers in the organization are the President, The Provost and the Chief Financial Officer. The middle managers are the deans in education as well as various departmental managers in student recruitment and student services. The school has over sixty full-time faculty as well as another fifty adjuncts that work strictly online. Something that has made it a challenge to exist as a manager is the school is it originally started as a technology school, specializing in Computer Aided Design.
The “Tech-School” way of looking at curriculum, management and educational deliverables is still lingering in the schools bowels, so to speak. This shows mainly in the creation of programs and the course offerings. Debate occurs in open forum to address the need for a more theoretical approach to teaching rather than lab based training. As a manager that is faced with delivering majors to a diverse group of students I am faced with employing methods of leadership and management that attempt to persuade people to look at elements in a certain light to get results. This is a far cry from the early days of just telling people what to do.
Some training sessions that managers are required to attend at my workplace that truly help me grow as a manager and have also helped further shape my managerial philosophy are sessions on topics like, DISC profiles of workers, Systems Thinking, Parallel Thinking, Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, Situational Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager. Situational Self Leadership developed by Ken Blanchard is truly a useful tool in the managerial toolbox. The exposure to this material has helped me look at leadership and understand there are different types of leadership needed in any organization.
For example from Ken Blanchard’s book, “Leading at a Higher Level”, notes that effective leadership is a transformational journey. I truly understand that statement in hind sight. This is an interesting aspect to reflect on as a manager and simply being aware of this perspective has helped me realize there is much, much more to learn (Blanchard, 2009). I also realize how much I have changed in my style and perspective on working with people. The transformation takes place as a manager begins to understand there are levels of leadership to be aware of such as self-leadership, team leadership and organizational leadership.
Another interesting tool is the use of parallel thinking. Parallel thinking is a thinking process where focus is split in specific directions. When done in a group it effectively avoids the consequences of the adversarial approach. Participants offer input as much as possible in several parallel tracks. This leads to exploration of a subject where all participants can contribute, in parallel, with knowledge, facts, feelings, and so on. One good application of this is the Six Thinking Hats to facilitate a meeting. In my current role I encounter a variety of managers and workers, all with a slightly different perspectives on things.
It is important to attempt to create a level playing ground and allow everyone in a meeting to speak and feel they can speak freely. The use of the six thinking hats can truly accomplish this to some degree. Six hats is basically a thinking tool for group discussion and individual thinking. Combined with the idea of parallel thinking, it provides a means for groups to think together more effectively, and a means to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way. Essentially the color of the hat represents a distinct state.
The basis of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be identified, deliberately accessed and planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop strategies for thinking about particular issues. In each of these states the brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered. Six hats represent the distinct states and is assigned a color. The white hat is Information, considering purely what information is available, what are the facts etc. The red hat is emotion, instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling.
Judgment is the black hat, logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch. The yellow hat is the good things or logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony. Green is Creativity, statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes. The last hat is blue the thinking hat, thinking about thinking. The blue hat is the person that keeps order in the meeting and determines what hat to switch to and essentially drives the meeting. Colored hats are used as metaphors for each state. Switching to a state is symbolized by the act of putting on a colored hat, either literally or metaphorically.
These metaphors allow for more complete and elaborate segregation of the states. All of these thinking hats help for thinking more deeply (Debono, 1985). With the new tools and exposure to a collaborative environment I find that my philosophy is in many ways shaped by the organization I work in. The management throughout the college is encouraged to utilize a “systems thinking mindset” when directing workers. Systems thinking is basically an approach to solving problems within an organization by viewing problems as part of an overall system, rather than addressing only a specific part of the problem. Jackson, 2003) The idea is that one small change in one area of a process can affect the entire organization. This requires the smallest changes or additions to any process be campaigned and politicked for, rather than dictated. The need to inform and employ change management to the organization is key to any projects success. Managers give workers over arching goals and allow them to utilize whatever methods they feel appropriate to accomplish these ends, keeping the entire organization goals in mind.
This process is a far change to what I encountered as a young manager in the printing industry where I could simply tell a worker what to do and they would do it to the letter. The ability to get workers to give the exact result needed takes much longer to accomplish in the environment and can go through much iteration and often fall short of what it truly needed. Reflecting on personal career experience there are two main elements to my managerial philosophy that I can see now, Systems Thinking and Total Quality Management. I am a strong believer in systems thinking, now that I have been exposed to it in my current role.
In previous years I did not have the background or education to articulate what the concept was, but instinctually as a manger I always felt the whole was truly impacted by the smaller parts. The idea of looking at the entire system and how change or errors made in one part of the system can affect the whole is truly a concept that runs like a clock in my daily thought process. Another big part of my managerial philosophy is the utilization of Total Quality Management or TQM. Total quality management is a concept that focuses on managing the entire organization to deliver quality products to the customers (James,1996).
There is no real evidence concerning the positive relationship between TQM and business performance, however there is a consensus regarding the validity of a positive effect of TQM on operational-type performance, such as productivity, flexibility, on-time delivery of goods and services, quality and customer satisfaction in general (Kaynak 2003). The application of TQM seems like common sense for any manager that operates in a business that sells products, but it is the elements that make it useful as a common practice. The four elements of TQM are employee involvement, customer focus, benchmarking and continuous improving.
Employee involvement for example, is something that must take place in an educational institution for it to flourish and this one aspect has been one of the most powerful tools in my arsenal. Working as an administrator over many subject matter experts and teachers that create the actual product it is important to involve the faculty in the every aspect of the process that shapes and controls the product. This is true in the areas of the advisory board that give input on the curriculum as well as the instructional designers that make the product come to life visually.
The essence of employee involvement in this example is that they participate in the creation and quality control of the deliverables. The challenge for me is the ability to get results through people and not solely on my personal abilities. My role becomes measured by my ability to get results through people as well. This forces me to focus on managing people and collaborating with teams more than ever before. Customer focus is another key aspect of TQM. This essentially means the goal is to find out what the customers want, need and expect.
This is easier accomplished by active communication in the organization. As a manger to enhance this process it is important that active meetings take place thought the college to discuss any topics that effect or enhance the educational deliverables. Benchmarking is used in processes where the college wants to do something new and is not sure how. Department’s within the college, as a common practice, examine what other colleges are doing in a certain area and focus on the exact process that is used.
Once the process is understood a modified version of the process is created that fits more appropriately within the organization. These concepts are truly the underlying motivation that drives my personal managerial philosophy. A managerial philosophy drives the actions of a manager in most scenarios. They are central and core to everything that a manager does. I am sure in time the tools I use to function as a manager and my perspective will change or evolve further. As I am exposed to more on the subject I am certain to grow from the experience.
Some aspects that need improvement in my managerial philosophy come from the early days of managing. The idea of being direct and dictating to employees is in some ways still stuck in the cracks of my psyche. In some situation I go back to being very direct with people. This has been useful, but in most cases it turn on me like a knife. Many employees cannot handle direct input. They find it an attack and become very defensive. When dealing with performance issues it can be hard to be direct without being labeled rude or abrasive.
That might just be the environment I work in now and not something that is widespread, but for now that is the one area of my philosophy that needs a bit or work. I feel deep down at my core that a direct approach is often the best way, but in fact it has to be changes and reshapes to actually be something that is not at all direct. I find it hard translating direct input to something that is softer and feels happier when dealing with issues that need precise communication. It is a challenge, but I am sure in time I can overcome this and change my style for the better.