Management has evolved from its original meaning of “governing a horse”. The industrial revolution gave us “scientific management”; Hawthorne studies discovered that social interactions altered people’s productivity; computers brought systems theory into management thinking.
So why is there no clear and simple recipe for the practice of management? We talk about financial management, safety management, and operations management – as well as people management, information management, and sales management. Does the “management” part of those fields share a standard set of practices? A manager’s job may include many things, but one of them – the job of management – needs to be nailed down.
Three standard practices for managing performance can be used to accomplish any organizational or group goal:
- Support the dialogues that connect players needed to accomplish the objective. This can be done using metrics, timelines, and a few ground rules for accountability.
- Maintain the scoreboards showing progress toward the goals and performance on agreements for delivery of products, services, and communications.
- Control the feedback to all parties involved so people can see their agreements and the progress toward accomplishing the goals.
If one of these three practices is missing, management is missing.
Management is not simply a “people skill” or “soft skill”. It requires us to “do the math”: create good agreements between senders and receivers and track performance with rigor, precision, and persistence. It can be hard work, but it has real consequences for success and failure.