Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Management Style

By Andy Grove

A high output is associated with particular combinations of certain managers and certain groups of workers.

Parents and children
The theory here parallels the development of the relationship between a parent and child. As the child matures, the most effective parental style changes, varying with the “life-relevant maturity” – or age – of the child. A parent needs to tell a toddler not to touch things that he might break or that might hurt him. As he grows older, he begins to do things on his own initiative; something the parent wants to encourage while still trying to keep him from injuring himself. A parent might suggest, for example, that his child give up his tricycle for his first two-wheeler. The parent will not simply send him out on his own, but will accompany him to keep the bicycle from tipping over while talking to him about safety on the streets.

Parental supervision moves from structured to communicating.

As the child’s maturity continues to grow, the parent can cut back on specific instruction. When the child goes out to ride his bicycle, the parent no longer has to recite the litany of safety rule. A teenager knows it is not safe to cross a busy interstate highway on his bicycle, and the parent no longer has to tell him not to do it. Structures moves from externally imposed to being internally given.

Finally when the life-relevant maturity of the child is high enough, he leaves home perhaps goes away to colleague. At this point the relationship between parent and child will change again as the parent merely monitors the child’s progress.

Parental supervision moves from communicating to monitoring.

Should the child’s environment suddenly change to one where his life-relevant maturity is inadequate (for example, if he runs into severe academic trouble), the parent may have to revert to a style used earlier.

If the parent (or supervisor) imparted early on to the child (or subordinate) the right way to do things (the correct operational values), later the child would be likely to make decisions the way the parent would.

In fact, commonality of operational values, priorities, and preferences – how an organization works together – is a must if the progression in managerial style is to occur. Without that communality, an organization can become easily confused and lose its sense of purpose. Then; too, without a shared set of values a supervisor cannot delegate effectively. Accordingly, the responsibility for the transmitting common values rests squarely with the supervisor. He is, after all, accountable for the output of the people who report to him. The responsibility for teaching the subordinate must be assumed by his supervisor.

Task relevant maturity
The fundamental variable that determines the effective management style is the task-relevant maturity of the subordinate. Task relevant maturity of the subordinate is a combination of the degree of their achievement orientation and readiness to take responsibility, as well as their education, training and experience.

Varying the management styles are needed as task relevant maturity varies:

When the TRM is low, the most effective approach is one that offers very precise and detailed instructions, wherein the supervisor tells the subordinate what needs to be done, when and how: in order words, a highly structured approach.

TRM: low => structured; task oriented; tell “what,” “when,” “how.”

As the TRM of the subordinate grows, the most effective style moves from the structured to one more given to communication, emotional support, and encouragement, in which the manager pays more attention to the subordinate as an individual than to the task at hand.

TRM: medium => Individual oriented; emphasis on two-way communication, support,
mutual reasoning.

As the TRM becomes even greater, the effective management style changes again. Here manager’s involvement should be kept to a minimum, and should primarily consist of making sure that the objectives toward which the subordinate is working are mutually agreed upon.

TRM: high => Involvement by manager minimal: establishing objectives and monitoring.

The manager should always monitor a subordinate’s work closely enough to avoid surprises.

Do not make a value judgment and consider a structured management styles less worthy than a communication-oriented one. What is “nice” or “not nice” should have no place in how you think or what you do. Remember, we are after what is most effective.

The appropriate management style for an employee with high TRM takes less time than detailed, structured, supervision requires. Finally, at the highest levels of TRM, the subordinate’s training is presumably complete, and motivation is likely to come from within, from self-actualization, which is the most powerful source of energy and effort a manager can harness.

Once operational values are learned and TRM is high enough, the supervisor can delegate tasks to the subordinate, thus increasing his managerial leverage.

Deciding the TRM of your subordinates is not easy. Moreover, even if a manager knows what the TRM is, his personal preferences tend to overwrite the logical and proper choice of management style. For instance, even if a manager sees that his subordinate’s TRM is “medium”, in the real world the manager will likely opt for either the “structured” or “minimal” style. In other words, we want either to be fully immersed in the work of our subordinates, making their decisions, or to leave them completely alone, not wanting to be bothered.

Another problem is a manager’s perception of himself. We tend to see ourselves more as communicators and delegators than we really are, certainly much more than do our subordinates. It is partly because managers think of themselves as perfect delegators. But also, sometimes a manager throws out suggestions to a subordinate who receives them as marching orders – furthering the difference in perceptions.

A person’s TRM can be very high but if the pace of the job accelerates or if the job itself abruptly changes, the TRM of the individual will drop. It’s a bit like a person with many years’ experience driving on country roads being suddenly asked to drive on a crowded metropolitan freeway. His TRM of driving will drop precipitously.

For an example, an excellent manager taking new job. The personal maturity of the manager obviously did not change, his task relevant maturity in the new job was extremely low, since its environment, content, and tasks were all new to him. In time he learned to cope, his TRM gradually increased. With that his performance began to approach the outstanding levels he had exhibited earlier, which is why he was promoted in the first place. Here there are two things involved:
· The manager’s general competence and maturity
· The manager’s task relevant maturity

Working environment changes
Let’s consider an army encampment where nothing ever happens. The sergeant in command has come to know each of his soldiers very well, and by and large maintains an informal relationship with them. The routines are so well established that he rarely has to tell anyone what to do; appropriate to the high TRM of the group, the sergeant content himself with merely monitoring their activity.

One day a jeepload of the enemy suddenly appears, coming over the hill and shooting at the camp. Instantly the sergeant revert to a structured, task-oriented, leadership style, barking orders at everyone, telling each of his solders what to do, when and how . . . . A directing style is appropriate when a decision has to be made quickly and the stakes are high.

After a while, if these skirmishes continue and the group keeps on fighting from the same place for a couple of months, this too will eventually become routine. With that, the TRM of the group for the new task – fighting – will increase. The sergeant can then gradually ease off telling everybody what to do.

A manager’s ability to operate in a style based on communication and mutual understanding depends on there being enough time for it.

Though monitoring is a manager’s most productive approach, we have to work our way up to it in the real world. Even, if we achieve it, if things suddenly change we have to revert quickly to the structured (what-when-how) mode.

We managers must learn to fight such prejudices and regard any management mode not as either good or bad but rather as effective or not effective, given the TRM of our subordinates within a specific working environment. The management mode changes day-by-day and sometimes hour-by-hour.
Working relationship

There is a huge distinction between a social relationship and a communicating management style, which is a caring involvement in the work of subordinate.

If the subordinate is a personal friend, the supervisor can move into a communicating management style quiet easily, but the what-when-how mode becomes harder to revert to when necessary. It’s unpleasant to give order to a friend.

I have seen several instances where a supervisor had to make a subordinate-friend to a disciplinary line, the supervisor’s action worked out because the subordinate felt that supervisor was looking out for his professional interests.

Is friendship between supervisor and subordinate a good thing? A test might be to imagine yourself delivering a tough performance review to your friend. Do you cringe at that thought? If so, don’t make friends at work. If your stomach remains unaffected, you are likely to be someone whose personal relationships will strengthen work relationships.


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