Managing Change and Improvement

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Attending a networking event recently at a North West Golf Club, I entered into a conversation with two bankers (from different banks) an IT manager for a global conglomerate and a sole trader in the construction industry. (No, this is not a joke!!!)

As with all these events you get round to asking people what they do, and how they work. Not surprisingly the bankers had heard of what was to them, a relatively new term “change management” (CM) but never experienced it in practice; the sole trader was completely unaware of the terminology but recognised how he was his own change manager, and probably adjusted his own working practices subconsciously, due to personal experience and direct or indirect feedback from clients. The IT guy, worked for large American concern and knew that CM was part of their Human Resources Department, but found it was applied within his organisation to his own personal development. He had little input into the big company decisions and at his level (middle management) he was rarely invited to discuss “whole company” matters unless it directly affected IT.

As an aside, I threw into the conversation, “What do you think of this statement? Managers are not paid to make decisions; they are paid to take responsibility for those decisions that are made!” I was playing devil’s advocate, trying to light the fuse paper, standing back and hopefully watching the fireworks. The bankers were a bit aghast. Lots of their lending decisions in the modern world are very objective, tend to be black and white, and within strict financial parameters; if it doesn’t meet the criteria (computer says no) they tend to have their hands tied from above. With regard to staff training and morale, marketing, PR, customer service, visioning, leadership, teamwork, they seemed to be rarely consulted; their focus was very concerned with “the bottom line”. HR or external agents tended to deal with these issues. Discussion and consultation played a small part in the established culture of their institutions.

In many ways the sole trader was the best decision maker. He worked at every level of his company; cleaner, tradesman, first-aider, transport manager, chief buyer, negotiator, estimator, HR, payroll, Customer Services, MD and CEO. Without knowing, he probably had the best informal structure for informed decision making and most of it was intuitive and based on many years of on-site experience.

For all organisations quality decision making cannot be taken in isolation. There has to be a process of consultation and discussion with formal and informal structures in place to ensure that all stakeholders contribute to the debate. With such a process in place, then and only then can managers at all levels have the confidence to take responsibility for those actions which hopefully enhance performance.


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