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THE PROBLEM WITH MANAGEMENT - PART 3 (Simplicity for Success)

In the story so far, I have suggested that management languishes in the industrial dark ages. I have pointed the finger at an upside-down management culture. And I have suggested that being a manager is like being a cyclist because, well, the analogy works - and I happen to like cycling. Let's ride this particular bicycle home.

In early July this year, cyclist Lance Armstrong will try to win a record breaking sixth straight Tour de France. Winning this three-week, 3500km event just once requires overcoming enormous obstacles. So to have won it five times on end is simply awesome.

How does he do it? Yes, there is enormous personal preparation and effort involved. But this would amount to little if not for the approach and support of his U.S. Postal Service team.

As I said in Part 2, the key to efficient cycling is maintaining a rhythm. So Armstrong, as lead rider, is supported by a bunch of talented fellow cyclists. They do everything they can to help him do just that.

The cycling group is assisted, in turn, by a senior management group. This group don't actually cycle. They maintain a 'big picture' strategic view of the race. They remove external obstacles and ensure all the cyclists have the resources they need.

Right up to the team owners, the Postal Service team are all oriented towards a joint goal: helping their lead rider win the event. What they are doing, whether they know it or not, is making a complex and highly competitive race as simple as they possibly can.

They are making it simple by making it easy to understand. Everyone knows who the lead rider is and that the goal is to get that person over the line in first place.

They are making it simple by making it easy to do. Senior management make it easy for each cyclist to do his job, so that in turn they can make it easy for the lead rider to do his job.

On the surface, your organisation's structure is similar to the Postal team's. For example, in Part 2, I put you, as a manager, on the seat of a bicycle - your team. Within your organisation, each section or department is like a separate bicycle; each of your colleagues a separate rider.

One or more of you is the 'lead rider': the section which interacts closely with the end customer. Others play some form of support role. At another level is a senior management group, much like U.S. Postal's.

The problem with management boils down to the fact that few organisations have U.S. Postals dedication to making it simple. Too many managers are riding solo and without clear direction. Too many are riding bikes in less than optimum condition. Too often there is little focus on being clear about who the lead rider is, let alone optimising his or her efforts.

Management, at all levels, needs to be more realistic about the complexity of the environment they are operating in. They then need to understand the importance of making it simple. Of having shared goals which are easy to understand. Of focusing maximum effort on making the job of everyone - especially the lead rider - easy to do.

Only then will we start to overcome the problem with management.

by David Brewster

David Brewster is a Simplicity expert. He helps managers and business owners succeed by finding ways to simplify the way they work, the products they create and the way they communicate. His client's work more effectively and have more, happier customers. David regularly writes and speaks on simplifying work. Downloads and resources are available at his website:

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