Monday, May 21, 2012

The invisible manager

An invisible manager is a person who holds the position as manager and who works behind the scenes to make sure the actors get what they need to perform at their best; autonomy, access to the relevant resources, good working conditions, recognition, space to think and act. Invisible managers help to find and recruit talented people. They help to take care of all the stuff that makes the people who will perform lose their focus. They stand somewhere behind the scenes, observing that things are all right, and act on things which aren't. As invisible managers, their role in making the play a success is significant. However, they should remain invisible to both the actors and the audience.

It is important to understand that holding the position as manager is not the same thing as being a leader. Unfortunately, many managers believe it is. Although someone can be both a manager and a leader at the same time, in my experience many managers are not leaders; it is because they haven't been assigned as managers primarily because of their leadership skills, but because they comply well with the existing management model. They are loyal, ambitious and meticulous.

The leaders are often elsewhere, trying to stay away from management because they are afraid of getting stuck in status quo (it is a manager's responsibility to maintain status quo). Thus there is often a tension here between managers and leaders: while managers are defenders of status quo, leaders are agents of change. Leaders live and breathe uncertainty, while managers defy and try to fight or prevent it with all means available. Leaders find new paths to moving the enterprise forward, while managers try to get people to walk in line along existing paths. Leaders are driven by passion, while managers are usually driven by other things such as monetary rewards and climbing in the hierarchy.

So, a manager does not always have to be a leader. It is important for anyone who thinks about entering a management position to realize this. Are you a leader? If so, do you want to continue as a leader and develop your leadership skills? Then you might think about how you will be able to do that in your new role.

Managers who are not leaders but who try to act like leaders are just drawing attention to themselves as persons rather than the work that has to be done and the challenges which have to be dealt with. They are themselves too much space and drawing attention away from real leaders and work. They obstruct work. Instead, they should step back and focus on being invisible managers. Great managers make themselves invisible and help to make true leaders visible. If they also have a leader within themselves, they need to manage less to lead more.

Photo from stock.xchng

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

3 ways to improve knowledge worker productivity

One of the simplest definitions of productivity can be found in Wikipedia:
"Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of production output to what is required to produce it (inputs). The measure of productivity is defined as a total output per one unit of a total input."
Knowledge worker productivity in the digital age is something completely different. We are still trying to figure out what it's about and how to fuel it. On the one hand, digital technologies allow us to interact with much more people and information across time and space. On the other hand, they make us more isolated and less able to use our natural communication tools such as voice and body language. They disconnect us from the physical places where we are. Yet it is the context (information in your surroundings, the situation we are in) that explains to us what we need to do, when, how and why.

The more dynamic, complex and uncertain our business environments become, the more people and information we need to be able to access and interact with. The more people and information need to be available to us, the more challenging it becomes to make them findable and easily accessible. The faster we need to produce results, the more challenging it becomes to handle the number of interactions. This is why we often find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Simply put, knowledge worker productivity in the digital age boils down to getting the right things done as fast a possible. To improve it we need to do three things:

1. Provide enough context so we know what goes on and what we need to do in any situation. 

Simply put; we have the information that tells us what to do, when, how and why. It is all about making the right decisions, about taking the right actions.

2. Ensure that we can access and find all the resources we need.

All the information, tools and people we need must be findable and accessible in any situation. Capture and use information from interactions to improve relevance.

3. Make it as easy as possible to interact with the resources.

We should spend as little time interacting with a resource that is needed to achieve the purpose of the interaction.

Context. Access. Relevance. Simplicity.