Monday, May 14

The main challenge in managing a department

You know what I do when I am asked to transform something? I look at the front line, line managers, and concentrate all my efforts on them. Why? because they are your leaders of your individual contributors. Pretty much all your company’s revenues, customer satisfaction, process improvements and employee satisfaction/motivation rests on these folks.

In the little experience I have had, organisations frequently fail at this level of management. Attention is paid to the global leads, attention is paid to the employees, attention is paid to strategy, attention is paid to so many places, but how many organisations actively pay attention to the frontline line managers? Not many. But if you find an organisation which does this, then you will see that they are good. Pick pretty much any successful organisation that you like and you will find that they spend extraordinary time on the line managers.

Some questions to ask.

  • Do you promote your best individual contributor to being a line manager?
  • How do you ward against the Peter Principle?
  • Do you have a coaching programme by senior management to the fresh line managers?
  • Do you have a brutal succeed or out policy for failed line managers?
  • How do you compensate for the fact that your most successful individual contributor is now a line manager and cannot generate revenues/services?
  • How are you making sure that the new line manager’s previous great skills as a revenue generator / service delivery manager is replicated across his new team?
  • What leadership training are you giving to your line managers?
  • Is there a clear dual track career path? managers and individual contributors.

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