Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Wikipedia Can't Tell You About Management

Go ahead, look it up. Wikipedia describes management as:
Management in businesses and organizations is the function that coordinates the efforts of people to accomplish goals and objectives by using available resources efficiently and effectively.
From there, it takes a very clinical and scientific approach (this is wikipedia after all) to describing basic management functions and structures. The article does well to describe Planning, Controlling, Commanding, Coordinating, and Organizing as basic management functions, but it leaves out a few things that I have noticed over the years, particularly at larger companies.

Pushing Paperwork
As you manage more and more people, you become responsible for the career paths (and paperwork associated with) each of those individuals. Hiring a new person? Prepare the paperwork. Someone pursuing a new job? Get your papers ready (every time they apply). Trying to promote someone? There's a binder over there to fill out. Want to fire someone? We've got a whole file cabinet for that. The paperwork one person generates in a year from a Human Resources perspective does not add up to all that much, maybe two or three events in a year. But as your team size grows (another reason to keep your teams below seven), those two or three events a year becomes fifteen or twenty.

You're Never The Boss
Unless you own the company outright, you will always have a boss. VPs answer to SVPs or the CEO. CEOs answer to their boards. And the boards serve at the whim of shareholders or owners. If you seek authority and autonomy by pursuing a career in management, you might be sorely disappointed. Perhaps an entrepreneurial pursuit could fulfill you more, but that comes with additional risk.

You Will Make Hard Decisions
Dramatizations of management have people in suits focused on extremely difficult strategic decisions, either focused on mergers and acquisitions or art theft (OK, maybe that's just The Thomas Crown Affair), but in reality, managers are asked to make more difficult positions than that. The two hardest, in my opinion, decisions made are whom to lay off and whom to hire. Layoffs require decisions that profoundly impact people's lives and often those lives are the lives of friends. You can hire someone as easily as you can decide on a spouse, but with only one or two dates to make up your mind.

Don't Forget Performance Reviews
Perhaps one of the least enjoyable aspects of management to many is the annual performance review cycle. The Washington Post ran an article a few years ago that pointed to annual reviews as a demotivating activity that most employees and management universally hate together, but still they remain a staple of corporate America. So once a year, prepare to write a novel explaining why your employees are doing well or not, in a dance that should repeat what good managers do all year long and as a crutch for bad managers for failing to provide feedback the rest of the year.

Hope You Like Capitol Hill
Like it or not, there is a political aspect to management as well. Whether you work in a hyper-political and toxic environment or one that is more friendly, you still need to be able to negotiate and compromise with your peers like a Senator seeking a bipartisan coalition. Good managers need to be able to work out deals and agreements back and forth, all with the benefit of the company and customers in mind. Sometimes that means you won't be the one with the idea that triumphs, but sometimes you will be.

That's Not All
There are other horrible aspects of management. But there are great things, too, that they don't tell you, like the satisfaction of having an employee grasp a point that you have been coaching them on. As you get higher up, watching and developing first-time managers in the same skills that you have developed over the years can be great. Getting the ability to share your ideas with the leadership of the organization can give you a stake in the outcome for the company.

What else does Wikipedia leave out? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know.