NUMBER 454 • 17 FEBRUARY • THE MANAGEMENT DILEMMA
Business managers sometimes find themselves in a similar dilemma. They sense that they ought to be doing better in the competitive market but seem powerless to make necessary changes. Bringing about changes in people and in organizations is not simple; or if it is simple, it is not easy. We are dealing with momentum, with attitudes, with skill levels, with perceptions, and with established patterns. People tend to cling to old views, old ways, old habits. And old styles and habits are hard to change.
To make or break a habit takes great commitment, and commitment comes from involvement—it acts as a catalyst in the change process.
Of course, the down side of involvement is risk. Whenever you involve people in the problem, you risk losing control. It is so much easier, simpler, and safer — and seemingly so much more efficient — to not involve others, but simply to tell them, to direct them, to advise them.
In his book, Managing, former ITT president Harold Geneen writes “Most chief executives slip into authoritarian roles without realizing that the process is going on. Subtly, they change [because] it’s easier and less time-consuming to be authoritarian.”
Most authoritarian managers and executives are not tyrants. Most are benevolent — using the principles of human relations to the fullest to direct behavior and get desired results.
To manage by the principles of human resources is to leave safe territory. Involvement is a ticket to adventure. The executive really never knows at the outset what will happen or where he or she will end up. Is the risk worth taking?
One of the primary, fundamental faults with American management, responds Geneen, “is that over the years it has lost its zest for adventure, for taking a risk, for doing something that no one has done before. The reason behind this change is the mistaken belief that professional business managers are supposed to be sure of themselves and never make a mistake.”
So managers are caught between these two positions: the safer easier, more efficient human relations position of directive, authoritative leadership and the far more risky, but infinitely more effective human resource principle of involvement.
Quality and commitment
An effective decision has two dimensions: quality and commitment. By weighing these two dimensions and multiplying them, we can determine the effectiveness factor. For example, let’s suppose that we make a quality decision — a perfect 10 on a 10-point scale; however, for some reason the commitment to that decision is low — a 2 on a 10-point scale. As a result we have a relatively ineffective decision (by multiplying 10 and 2, we get an effectiveness factor of 20).
Now let’s assume that by involving others, we compromise the quality of the decision (it drops from 10 down to 7), but we increase the commitment to it (let’s say from 2 to 8).
In this case we have an effectiveness factor of 56 (7 times 8). That means the decision may not be as good, but it is almost three times as effective!
Nonetheless, many young or new managers hesitate to involve people in decision making for fear of opening up other options, contaminating their own thinking, or compromising their position.
Eventually, through experience, most managers learn that the effectiveness of their decisions depends on quality and commitment, and that commitment comes through involvement. They are then willing to assume the risks and to develop the skills of involving people appropriately.
Covey, S. R. (1992). Principle-centered leadership. Australia: Simon & Schuster Ltd. pp 218-219