Will Sr. Managers Change? LO7394

Brock Vodden (brock.vodden@odyssey.on.ca)
Sun, 12 May 1996 01:51:25 -0400

Replying to LO7381 --

At 10:21 PM 5/10/96 -0700, you wrote:

>By what measure do you assess these organizations as "underachieving?"

I determined underachievement by observing the waste, and opportunity loss
caused by their mismanagement in the blindspot areas. In many instances,
vast improvements in productivity could have been made at no cost -- just
a touch of wisdom.


One company had a department with an annual employee turnover rate of
about 200%. No one was responsible for monitorong that sort of thing;
therefore no one recognized the seriousness of the situation. One of many
costly deficiencies in leadership.

Another company had installed a production control system which created
chaos in the production areas. They based their selection and
implementation on the Sales Department requirements, and did almost no
consultation with the production department. This company exhibited many
similar management problems which were costing the company enormous
amounts of money. After many years of modest ROI with occasional years of
loss, the company went bankrupt and now does not exist.

This 450 employee company went into bankruptcy and now does not exist.

>When you say "poorly educated executive teams," to what are you referring?
>Their lack of college degrees?

College degrees have little value to most of these companies. Some B
School exposure might have been helpful in broadening awareness of
management and leadership principles. On the other hand, I am not
confident that B Schools have much awareness of the challenges facing
these smaller business, or that their case studies and analyses offer what
such organizations need.

The people I refer to as "poorly educated" refers to their lack of
preparation for their current executive role within the company. Some of
them have no formal education beyond high school; some have post-secondary
trade school or technical training; others have professional education in
medicine, engineering, finance, and I know several with Ph.D.'s in nuclear
science which gained them entry into the industry and their careers.
Virtually all of these people excelled in their fields as workers,
scientists, doctors, etc. -- thus they were promoted through the ranks. As
executives, they are dealing with an entirely different set of issues, and
require a different set of competencies. They have no formal preparation
for these roles, and the quality of their experiential learning on the job
is very much a matter of chance.

Who developed this "full range of competencies required by their task?"

I believe that in order for a particular business of any kind to be
successful, there is a range of required executive competencies. Some
examples of these competencies would be: leadership in the companies
primary technology (banking, manufactuting production, consulting, for
example), financial management, management of people, planning, sales,
marketing, R&D, design, resource planning, and so on). The specific list
flows from the nature of the business rather than being dictated by
external authority or theory.

If given the list, do you think they would recognize their purported

A glance at the list will not convert many. What I have used with
considerable success is an all-employee opinion survey (sometimes
accompanied by focus group input) to ascertain what members of the
organization see as the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. I
refer to this as "holding a mirror up to the company". This process sheds
light on many of the blind spots, and makes the executive team aware of
areas that they have neglected.

> I guess I'm not sure I appreciate what you see as the "national problem."

I have no scientific evidence that this is a national problem. We do know
that Canada's productivity records since WWII have been disappointing.
That is certainly a national problem. My thesis is that the issue we are
discussing here is one of the major contributors to our poor productivity.

> Are you referring to the lack of systems thinking? The lack of leadership

Yes, to both.

>If you could wave John Warfield's magic wand, what knowledge would you
impart >on these executive teams to counteract the drag or cause a thrust in

I would have them perceive their organization as a single, whole, dynamic
entity, rather than as a collection of loosely related functions. I would
then have them perceive their team as a single, whole, dynamic entity
which must provide leadership. I would imbue them with an understanding of
the varied skills, competencies, areas of knowledge and experience which
are required to lead this organization and to fulfill its mission. Armed
with those perceptions, and that understanding, I think they would do the
right things, such as adding missing leadership resources to their
executive team, prehaps removing some executives who do not contribute.
Perhaps become a Learning Organization?

One thing I have not mentioned: most of these people are highly motivated
and intelligent. Many are strongly opinionated. It might take a magic wand
to bring about these new perceptions.

>What is the problem? Lack of productivity? Poorly educated executive
>teams? Senior managers who won't change? Help me to understand what you
>seem to have a clear picture of.

These are the symptoms.

My thesis is that the source of the problems is the traditional way most
of our organizations (public, private, and voluntary sectors) select,
promote, and develop their managers makes these problems predictable. I
believe that as a country, we need to deal with the matter further
upstream -- changing the tradition, not just patching up the casualties.


Brock Vodden Vodden Consulting Business Process Improvement "Where People and Systems Meet" brock.vodden@odyssey.on.ca

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>