The Management Definition

In his awesome book “The Goal”, Eliyahu M. Goldratt shared the great definition of management. According to Goldratt management is all about answering three questions:

  • What to change?
  • What to change to?
  • How to cause the change?

I must say that this definition is probably the best I have ever read.

Threee questions to define management

Every Manager (no matter what the manager is managing) needs to answer those three question. Management is all about changing. Manager’s role is all about optimizing the process and taking care of the effects of work that is performed. This optimization needs changes.

What to change?

In every process, you may identify some problems that are decreasing process efficiency. Identifying those problems as soon as possible is a significant part of a manager’s job. Looking for bottlenecks and obstacles that slow down the business (team, company, production line etc.) is something that good manager should do all the time. It may be done by placing the right monitoring process in place.

After finding the right things to change the decision about what to change first needs to be made. This prioritization is also a part of manager’s role. Changing everything at once might be not the best idea.

What to change to?

Knowing what to change is only the first step. I would even say the easiest one. I remember the time when I was starting my career and how I tried to perform the change and convince others to change without defining the expected status after the change. You may imagine how, even after fighting back all the resistance, the effects of change looks like. This kind of improvements usually fail and generates more chaos than anything else.

A good manager needs to have an idea how the process should look like after the change. Manager’s experience and knowledge should allow her to find a good solution that fits any particular problem. It does not mean that every single decision has to be correct and every single change has to lead to the better performance. Experimenting and making mistakes is a prat of this job. But the manager who says that “we have problems here and there and we need to do something with that” without communicating a clear vision about expected status after the change and without providing a solution is probably not the best manager.

Proper communication is crucial in the change process. Communication skills are probably the most important for the management job.

How to cause the change?

Last and the most important… Changes are not making themselves alone. Every change needs to be performed and managed. Every good manager has her own toolbox full of change making tools. Many various tools… Change process that works for solving one problem, removing an obstacle or elevating the system’s constraint may work well even in a few various contexts but not in all of them. Beeing open-minded and flexible is crucial for every manager.

Change is an ongoing process. Every change consists of many small steps that need to be monitored and managed. And the change plan needs to be adjusted according to the results of each of those steps.

Management is also an ongoing learning process. A manager who is saying that he already knows everything about management probably does not know anything about that.

Maybe this is one of the reasons why there are so many people who became experts in the other domains and after claiming that in those domains there is not so much to learn for them become a manager. And there are only so few managers that decide to move their interests into another domain “after learning everything about management”.

And… That is all… Everything else is just a matter of tools and methods you use to perform changes.

Goldratt had few other awesome thoughts about management and production processes applicable also for the software development processes. I will share with you few of them in the nearest future. Theory of Constraints described in “The Goal” is one of the most popular and useful.

I wonder what other management definition you use in your day to day work? I am waiting for your comments…

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