View from the Top

Consider the chief executive’s perspective. When a CEO looks at the company, several features stand out most sharply. These are the traditional components of corporate structure: divisions, functional departments, strategic business units, and subsidiaries. They are the activities over which the chief executive has responsibility. They form the mental model the top leadership has of the business. Most companies take these components for granted as their basic subunits.

Unfortunately, these components cloud more than clarify the perspective most essential to the intelligent resizing of a company’s work.

When changes are made in a company’s strategy, or when changes outside its control make readjustment or retrenchment necessary, the lines and boxes on the company’s organization chart are also frequently shifted. These moves usually seem to make good sense at the time—from just following function, after all—but as the retrospective research indicates, moving the boxes and redrawing the lines do not always pay off.

This happens because, frequently, the wrong question is being asked. The search is usually for the “best” organizational configuration: flat, functional, divisional, matrix, or some hybrid. This issue, which eventually does need to be addressed, is premature if it is the first thing that comes to mind when considering the company as a whole. It diverts attention from careful consideration of the “functionality” that the “form” is being adapted to. It also makes the company susceptible to the management fad of the moment, so that a means because the goal: how can we flatten our structure, use cross-departmental teams, or become an information-based organization? These are all potentially useful tactics, but for what end?

This type of organization, driven from the top down, is one that deals with the structures for doing things, rather than the things that need doing. Its view of the boxes on the organization chart too often goes no deeper than the head count the boxes contain. This perspective is troublesome and can be misleading, but even more dangerous is the viewpoint provided by some contemporary forms of strategic planning.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, and my Lectures.

The Ethos of Great Managers

Smart individual performers keep getting moved into manager positions without the slightest idea of what the manager role is, let alone the ability to play it. They are sent to leadership development courses, but they come back more impressed with their mini-executive status than with the day-to-day challenges of being a good manager.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the manager role is no longer very important. Apparently managers are now an impediment to speed, flexibility, and agility. Today’s agile companies can no longer afford to employ armies of managers to shuffle papers, sign approvals, and monitor performance. They need self-reliant, self motivated, self-directed work teams. No wonder managers are first against the wall when the reengineering revolution came.

Every manager should be a leader. He must seize opportunity, using his smarts and impatience to exert his will over a fickle world. In this world, the staid little manager is a misfit. It is too quick for him, too exciting, too dangerous. He had better stay out of the way. He might get hurt.

Today’s business pressures are more intense. Companies need self-reliant employees and aggressive leaders. But all this does not diminish the importance of managers. In turbulent times the manager is more important than ever because managers play a vital and distinct role, a role that charismatic leaders and self-directed teams are incapable of playing. The manager role is to reach inside each employee and release his unique talents into performance. This role is best played one employee at a time: one manager asking questions of, listening to, and working with one employee. Multiplied a thousand fold, this one-by-one role is the company’s power supply. In times of great change it is this role that makes the company robust enough to stay focused when needed, yet robust enough to flex without breaking.

Thus the manager role is the catalyst role. As with all catalysts, the manager’s function is to speed up the reaction between two substances, thus creating the desired end product. Specifically the manager creates performance in each employee by speeding up the reaction between the employee’s talents and the company’s goals, and between the employee’s talents and the customers’ needs. When hundreds of managers play this role well, the company becomes strong.

In today’s slimmed-down business world, most of these managers also shoulder other responsibilities. They are expected to be subject matter experts, individual superstars, and sometimes leaders in their own right. These are important roles, which great managers execute with varying styles and degrees of success. But when it comes to the manager aspect of the responsibilities, great managers all excel at this catalyst role.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact, Line of Sight