Monday, August 26, 2013

Surviving Poor Management 7: Negative Directions

Negative directionsThis continues our series on how to survive poor management at work and grow

Andy worked for a company that had gone through multiple changes in the last ten years. A recent merger with another company coupled with a retiring CEO triggered a fourth strategic change in three years. For four years, upper management gave directions outlining what not to do, instead of a strategy outlining that they wanted people to do. Years of being told what not to do created confusion and decreased productivity throughout the company.

Importance of Giving Positive Directions

Management’s vision for the future of the company normally creates directives outlining the action needed to implement the vision. Guidelines, policies, and procedures provide workers with clear instructions and tasks.

Employees act to implement the strategy through the instructions they receive from the company. Management may evaluate how well the strategy creates the desired result by measuring both the action and consequence of the action.

Jim Collins taught in Good to Great that corporations must define what not to-do. Don’t-do lists follow defining the hedgehog concept which defines the one thing, the organization does consistently and repeatedly.

In other words, organizations define what to-do before they define what not-to-do.

Consequences of Giving Negative Directions

Poor management consistently issues directives outlining what not-to-do without defining what they want employees to-do. Telling people what-not-to-do without filling the void with positive directions instructing them what they should do, creates a vacuum. Vacuums must be filled.

Workers will begin to fill the vacuum with their own ideas and creations. Their actions generally will not satisfy management, who may not even know what they want to happen. As a result, the organization pursues an undefined path—or more accurately multiple undefined paths—as employees define their own way.

Compensating for Negative Directions

This is a very difficult problem to survive. The easy solution also creates the negative consequence—you define for yourself what you should be doing.

The difficult solution involves asking management questions, that probably will irritate them, to define positive directions.

Wednesday we describe impacts of constant analysis with little action or follow-through

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