The work of managers in new organizational contexts The Authors Judith Ann Chapman, University of Western Sydney, Richmond, Australia Abstract Focuses on the work of managers in new forms of organisations which are flexible, horizontally integrated, and decentralised. Although much has been written about managers, including their roles, functions, and skills, the organisational context is changing, and new perspectives are needed. A process perspective is a way of understanding the work of managers in these contexts.
The paper suggests two pivotal management processes, the exercise of judgment and the use of influence, through which managers add value to more general organisational processes. Some directions for research are suggested and a classroom exercise for introducing graduate students to this topic area is outlined. Article Type: Conceptual Paper Keyword(s): Management; Process management; Organizations; Influence. Journal: Journal of Management Development Volume: 20 Number: 1 Year: 2001 pp: 55-68 Copyright ©MCB UP Ltd
ISSN: 0262-1711 Introduction Managers occupy the middle ground in organisations. At one and the same time they create and maintain a superstructure while shaping the behaviour of others within and around it. By actively and purposively linking these different levels in the system, managers progress the action and play their part in the unfolding history of the organisation. “What do managers really do? ” is a question that echoes through the management literature. This paper is another, hopefully welcome, attempt to address it.
Certainly, much has already been written during the past century about the functions, roles, skills and competencies of managers, including Fayol’s original book of 1916 and the major contributions of Mintzberg, Stewart, Kotter and others. However, reviews of the field have revealed a lack of conceptual clarity and many inconsistencies among the various formulations (Wren, 1994; Carroll and Gillen, 1987; Hales, 1986; Mintzberg, 1973). We might also question the relevance of some of this work in the face of the continuing evolution of organisational forms.
Organisations have changed, but in terms of the work that managers do, does it make a substantial difference? The central argument of this paper is that the focus of managerial work is changing, and that new perspectives are needed as a result. First, the roles that managers play and the expectations that others have of them are evolving to reflect new forms of organisation. These forms are characterised by more flexible and fluid arrangements of people and other resources than is the case for traditional structures.
Positions and responsibilities are less static and more open-ended, and the familiar boundaries distinguishing upper, middle and lower level managers are being redrawn. When managerial work has been described in the past the emphasis has usually been on how managers oversee the work of people within fixed units. This is too narrow because managers in new forms of organisation do much more than this. They are also active as the architects of organisational arrangements linking people, opportunities and resources. These are processes of organisation building, not simply maintenance and control.
Secondly, in new forms of organisation customers and markets have an immediate impact on the work of managers. The success and survival of the organisation depends on how well managers can identify or create market opportunities and then provide goods and services which satisfy in areas of quality, variety, availability and price. Goods and services are the outputs of transformation processes in organisations. Most of these processes are enacted in a lateral sweep involving a variety of people, units, and places.
They are essentially the sequences of tasks and activities which are either at the core of production or support it administratively. In new forms of organisation, processes are central to our understanding of how organisations function and the work that managers do. This paper argues that organisational processes are complemented by an additional set of processes which are the domain of managers. Two key managerial processes will be proposed in a later section. New contexts for managerial work The work that managers do needs to be understood within the context of organisational structure and the broader environment.
After early industrialisation organisational structures continued to evolve along with changes in their environments. During the past 20 or 30 years, globalisation intensified competition and underscored the search for greater efficiency in production and service delivery. Consumers came to expect higher standards of quality and other deliverables. Together these two trends placed further pressure on organisations to respond quickly to changing contingencies and markets. Structural changes were needed so that organisations could meet these challenges.
Many large organisations shed some of the rigid features of bureaucracy to become more flexible in structure. However, those at the forefront of change maximised the potential of information technology, teaming this with a liberalised approach to human resource management. The result is a variety of new forms which now share the organisational landscape. The following features are characteristic of the new forms (Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1997). First, they are built from the bottom up on autonomous business units which operate at the front-line of the business.
This contrasts with the old approach of planning and dividing the work from top to bottom into divisions, departments and groups. Secondly, business units are connected to one another through cross-unit integrative processes, designed to ensure a smooth flow of information and resources. This counters the insularity and lack of cooperation which often bedevils more traditional organisations. Thirdly, the culture in new forms supports initiative, autonomy and creativity in decision making in all sectors of the organisation. This provides for a level of flexibility and responsiveness which is not otherwise achievable.
Finally, knowledge and information are valued more highly as resources than capital and fixed assets. This reflects a valuing of the capacity to respond to tomorrow’s demands above the certainties of the present day. Do these structural shifts make a difference to the work of managers in new forms of organisation? Bartlett and Ghoshal (1997) argue that they do, that managers are, in fact, doing different things. Importantly, there are key contrasts between traditional and new forms in the nature of the work at operational, senior and top levels.
Operating level managers are undergoing transformation from implementers to aggressive entrepreneurs, those at the senior level are moving away from their previous role as administrative controllers to supportive coaches, and top level managers are becoming institutional leaders rather than resource allocators. These new roles impact the value that managers add to the organisation as well as their key tasks and activities. At operational level, for example, managers create and pursue new growth opportunities, attract and develop resources, and manage continuous improvement.
In redefining the focus of managerial work, Bartlett and Ghoshal (1997) have exposed the more proactive and creative aspects of managerial roles. In new forms, managers at all levels create opportunities and stretch the organisation at its boundaries. The situation is, however, quite different in more traditional organisations, where these things are the province of managers at the highest levels only. Managers at lower levels focus on activity in their own units, where they are “institutionally empowered to determine and/or regulate certain aspects of the actions of others” (Willmott, 1984).
In other words, middle and lower level managers are mainly concerned with activity beneath them in the structural hierarchy. In new forms of organisation managers at all levels are both organisation builders and the regulators of unit activity. These two domains overlap and belong to the same continuum. As organisational forms become more fluid, the balance within these domains shifts from an inward to an outward focus, that is, towards a greater emphasis on the creative aspects of organisation building.
In highly challenging environments this shift is desirable because organisational effectiveness is contingent upon flexibility and responsiveness to the market. It is also feasible because the structural anchors in new forms of organisation are much more fluid and accessible to managers than those in traditional organisations. The structural anchors of new forms include work patterns, flows of knowledge and information, interpersonal relationships and shared understandings. These are shaped by managers directly and through the organisational processes which they oversee.
We can conclude, therefore, that the organisation building role is within the scope of all managers, even those at lower levels. In fact, the organisation building capacity of each manager is largely bounded by the extent of his or her knowledge and influence within the organisational system. It is enacted through actions and choices made every day in response to contingencies as they arise. This contrasts with the situation in traditional organisations. Here, hierarchical authority, formalisation and centralised controls are the structural backbone. They form a relatively inflexible structure within which most managers operate.
To understand the work of managers in new organisational forms, we need conceptual models which encompass both the organisation building and unit management aspects of the role. These models should also link the work of managers to organisational processes, and in particular, specify the mechanisms through which managers add value to them. In other words, notions of managerial effectiveness should be embedded into models. Previous studies of managerial work A brief review of past contributions to the theory of managing will suggest where additional work is needed to explicate the kind of model referred to above.
This task is complicated by the lack of a common nomenclature for describing the work of managers, and a confusing array of terms which include functions, roles, tasks, activities and skills. A way forward is to discuss the various contributions according to themes which are relevant to the task of conceptualising managerial work in new forms of organisation. These themes, suggested above, are context, process and effectiveness. The idea that managerial work might differ according to its context or setting has not received much attention in the past.
The most common concession to context has been through acknowledging variation across the levels of management, by, for example, showing the skills mix at each level in the hierarchy (Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1997; Katz, 1974). Hales and Tamangani (1996) and Willmott (1984) criticised the decontextualised nature of most theories and the tendency to reduce managerial work to abstract tasks and activities. Hales and Tamangani (1996) argued strongly for better links between managerial work and specific organisational arrangements.
They concluded that there had been a failure to distinguish between organisation as a generic concept, and forms of organisation as variables in most studies. Willmott (1984) discussed the political role of managers in maintaining systems of institutional control in which an understanding of context was important. In common with each other, these writers suggested that a contextualised approach helps to explain the reasons why managers do what they do, rather than simply describing the content of the job. Most theory and research, however, seeks generic factors in managerial work.
Fayol (1988) spearheaded the quest for a general theory of management. He described six organisational functions, one of which was the managerial function. This was exercised through the members of the organisation, and encompassed the elements of planning, organising, coordinating, controlling and commanding. Based on a thorough review of the evidence Carroll and Gillen (1987) concluded that Fayol’s classifications remain useful for describing the many different managerial activities. Fayol is also significant in the way he provides a bridge between the work of managers and the main features of organisational design.
Regardless of how it is done, all organisations have a division of work, coordination mechanisms, and systems of control. Implicit in Fayol’s approach, therefore, is a recognition that some managers build organisational structures even as they go about the business of managing particular units. However, the elements (excluding commanding) were “executed on paper” (Fayol, 1988, p. 13), in a seemingly distant and formalised exercise of managerial responsibility. Later theorists tried to relate Fayol’s elements (or functions as they are now called) to the everyday activities of managers.
This proved to be very difficult. Finally, in an analysis of managerial work that he claimed was at the opposite extreme to the classical management school represented by Fayol, Mintzberg (1973) developed an activity-based framework. From Mintzberg’s perspective, Fayol’s elements described only the vague objectives of managerial work. In Mintzberg’s approach, activities formed the content of the job and were constructed around the ten working roles, classified as decisional, interpersonal and informational. Other theorists also attempted to develop an activity-based approach.
For example Luthans et al. (1988) used observation techniques to categorise managerial behaviour and activities. These were collapsed into four: routine communication, traditional management, networking and human resource management. Further studies examined how managers divided their time among these categories. In its turn, the activity-based approach was also seen to have weaknesses. As Mintzberg (1994) later acknowledged, generic descriptions of job content, including those relating to tasks, roles or competencies do not constitute a model.
Such descriptions simply do not capture the integrated job of managing. In fact, the larger picture becomes lost in the act of describing it. Stewart (1982) was highly critical of the drive to generalise about managerial jobs, a feature of the activity-based approach. She considered it more important to explain the variations in managerial jobs and to understand the factors contributing to their flexibility. This meant that more attention would need to be given to the dynamic aspects of managerial jobs, and less emphasis placed on static descriptions.
Drawing on a number of empirical studies, Stewart (1982) described managerial work in terms of three categories: demands, constraints and choices. She recognised that in terms of the constraints on the job holder, some managers have more open-ended responsibilities and less closely defined areas of operation than others. Stewart also found that managers have more or less choice in changing the domain of operation, deciding how work is done and modifying outputs, and that such choice exists in some organisations at all levels of management.
Interestingly, she concluded that an important factor contributing to flexibility was the design of the organisation. For example, the extent of formalisation was expected to affect flexibility. Further, managers with units that are physically separate or have a clearly identified territory were expected to have more independence and choice. Like Stewart, others have focused on the dynamic aspects of managerial work. Accordingly they have embraced notions of unexpectedness, serendipity and the passage of time. Kotter (1982) addressed the apparently incidental and opportunistic manner in which managers often behave.
He explained managerial work in terms of agendas and networks. Agendas were constructions that managers have of their tasks and the priorities assigned to them. Networks were the weave of relationships and contacts through which information was acquired and the work was accomplished. He found that managers could respond appropriately and efficiently to the flow of events and circumstances as they arose. Mintzberg (1994) used three interrelated factors to support images of managerial jobs: the person in the job, the frame of the job and the agenda of the work.
In this model, frame refers to the purpose of incumbents, and the way in which they focus the work undertaken by their unit in relation to the task environment. Agenda of the work relates to the tangible activities and specific allocations of managerial time on a day to day basis. With the frame providing a context, specific activities of managers were to be understood as linked into meaningful sequences. These theorists represent a trend identified by Hales (1986) as a move away from static elements and categories to a more synthetic process approach to understanding the work of managers.
By examining processes rather than tasks and competencies in isolation, it is easier to distinguish purposeful action from the blur of everyday activity. This then allows us to address questions about how well managers perform. Stewart (1989) was highly critical of the lack of attention to effectiveness in the many perspectives on managerial work. What managers do is given far more attention than what they achieve, she observed. In the main, the work of managers is usually conceptualised as somewhat detached from what is happening in the rest of the organisation.
A way forward was suggested by Hales (1986). In his view, managerial work should be constituted within the overall work processes of the organisation. This would focus attention on how managers contribute to the achievement of organisational goals. In line with this approach Garvin (1998) proposed an integrating framework consisting of organisational processes and a complementary set of managerial processes for implementing them. The organisational processes were operational and administrative work processes, behavioural processes, and change processes.
An operational work process, for example, consisted of all activities contributing to the creation of a good or service, behavioural processes included decision making, and reengineering was an example of a planned change process. Garvin (1998) referred to the complementary managerial processes as direction-setting processes, negotiation and selling processes and monitoring and control processes. These processes were vehicles for progressing action, gaining support and harmonising diverse interests in the organisation. Garvin’s framework goes some way towards reconciling the processes of management with the classical functions of management.
An alternative is to relate management processes more closely to organisational processes, and the contributions of managers to the organisation’s bottom line. This is the purpose of the next section. Processes in new forms of organisation A process approach to understanding organisations is concerned with how people and action are interlinked through events. Processes occupy an intermediate level of analysis. Thus, they provide a vehicle to connect seemingly unrelated activities into more coherent sequences, which are connected to the broader organisational context.
The idea that management is fundamentally about processes has been with us for a long time. Fayol (1988, p. 13) introduced it through his fifth managerial element, commanding. This was meant to be the unifying element concerned with putting plans into action and setting the work in operation. Numerous others since have expressed a similar idea. For Mintzberg (1994) it encompassed the cerebral work of conceiving and scheduling to the more tangible role of getting things done. For Garvin (1998) it was about shaping, prodding and directing, or orchestrating activity and engaging others in tasks.
In new organisational forms, processes are the key to organisational effectiveness because they link customers and markets to organisational goals. Managers contribute by adding value to organisational processes. But how do they do this? What perspectives on the work of managers would be helpful in understanding their role? The following propositions are intended as a stimulus to further discussion. * The organisational context is the key to distinguishing between elements of managerial work which are value-adding and those which are not.
The focus needs to be on the things that managers do as they contribute to the overall performance of the organisation, rather than on the full range of activities that they engage in. Managers have a value-adding role in relation to specific organisational processes and this role is framed by broader relationships through which they are cast as entrepreneurs, supportive coaches or institutional leaders in new forms of organisation (Garvin, 1998). * Managers in new forms build structures and manage units. Managers have two important functions.
First, they stretch the organisation at its boundaries as they respond to opportunities and demands. Second, they act as resource allocators, coaches, mediators, controllers, leaders and negotiators in and around their immediate organisational unit. These functions overlap. * The framing of roles is more important than designated positions (if indeed, managers have any). In new forms managerial roles are more fluid than they are in traditional organisations. Compared with their counterparts in traditional organisations, managers are less likely to identify as attached to a fixed position or office.
They are freer to develop in the role and expand their options and territory as opportunities arise. What managers do therefore is of interest, not who they are. Most writers on management take a different position, including Mintzberg who originally defined roles as “organized sets of behaviors belonging to an identifiable office or position” (1973, p. 54). The problem with attaching managers to designated positions is that it defines them in relation to a hierarchy and a place in the command and control system. Such perspectives are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Organisational processes can be classified as behavioural, operational, administrative support and organisation building. This follows Garvin (1998), with two alterations. The first is a shift in emphasis prompting the renaming of organisational change to organisation building processes. The second involves the development of behavioural processes to embed them more firmly in underlying processes of culture formation and expression. Behavioural processes encompass the patterns of communication, interaction and decision making which characterise an organisation.
After Schein (1985) they are derived from sets of core values and beliefs which imply answers to questions such as: who are we? why are we here? what do we stand for? Behavioural processes which are framed by the culture underlie and pervade all other processes in an organisation. Operational processes are the core business of the organisation and take in all activities associated with transforming inputs into goods and services. Administrative support processes sustain the human resource, information, planning and resource allocation systems that are needed to back-up operations.
Organisation building processes account for the shifts in emphasis, large and small, in relation to operations in the organisational domain, and in the evolving web of relationships between organisational participants and elements in the environment. * Managerial processes are adjuncts to organisational processes. Managerial processes should be understood as composed of behaviours which energise, activate, propel and shape organisational processes. They have no special status beyond this. They do not stand alone but exist in relationship to organisational processes.
In contrast, most explanations of the work of managers are centred upon the person and his or her activities. This tends to bias analyses towards static and individualistic, rather than dynamic and relational, aspects of the job. As an alternative, however, we could shift the focus of attention, at least initially, away from the manager as an individual per se. To use the familiar analogy of the orchestra, to discover some things about the conductor, we need to spend some time watching the players and the play.
It is the dynamic relationship among them that gives life to the music and ultimately enhances our understanding of the conductor’s behaviour. * The two key managerial processes are the exercise of judgment and the use of influence. As adjuncts to organisational processes, managerial processes are reduced to their simplest and most essential form. Through the exercise of judgment, managers make determinations about what ought to be done. The use of influence complements this by generating productive activity. These processes are two sides of the same coin and are discussed in the next section. Organisational processes occur in real time, are more or less complex in nature, and shorter or longer in duration. Managers often engage with several processes simultaneously. Further, the one activity can be associated with several organisational processes. The example of a manager briefing a junior colleague before meeting with a potentially important customer provides an illustration of these points. The potential outcomes include an immediate benefit (a sale), development of human assets (skills development of the colleague), and the building of longer term organisational capacity (expansion into new markets or product lines).
Managerial processes: exercising judgment and using influence The exercise of human judgment is a cognitive process (Bazerman, 1994). It involves the application of technical knowledge and skills to formulate and solve problems of varying complexity. Technical knowledge can be very specific (e. g. facility with computer circuitry) or very broad (e. g. knowledge of the business environment) and be gained from education, professional training or experience. Managers exercise their judgment continuously in relation to matters large and small.
These vary from major problems which must be addressed to the unfolding of a scenario that is merely observed by the manager. Judgment encompasses a range of tasks including the recognition of a problem or scenario, framing of the problem or scenario, choice behaviour, and reflection on outcomes or events. Such behaviours are highly susceptible to complex social and cultural influences incorporated in the decision frame adopted by the individual (Tversky and Kahneman, 1981). The exercise of judgment is sometimes highly visible, as for example, when a manager decides to reduce operating costs by downsizing an organisational unit.
At other times decisions are more routine and unremarkable, such as the approval of travel expenses. But more often than not judgment is exercised unobtrusively because it is embedded in the everyday. Small matters are attended to, information is noted, instruction is deemed necessary, details are rearranged and suggestions are agreed. Ostensibly, each instance has little significance in itself, but over time, meaningful patterns become apparent. A small workplace hazard noticed but not viewed as significant enough to be rectified later causes injury to an employee.
Through observation of competitor behaviour, a manager becomes aware of a market opportunity and decides to deploy sales staff into a new area. This culminates in new growth and revitalisation of the business. Influence complements judgment. While the exercise of judgment is the process for deciding how the action should unfold, the use of influence is the process for shaping the behaviour of others. Through the exercise of judgment choices are formulated. By using influence the manager obtains support and cooperation.
Influence can be direct or subtle, and has many dimensions. Attempts to influence encompass the giving of direct orders, the offer of inducements, persuasion, negotiation and example setting. They can be directed towards those with whom the manager has a mentoring relationship, peers, senior managers, customers or people and organisations outside the organisation’s boundaries. The use of influence is enabled by access to various sources of power, including line authority, expertise and personal standing in the organisation.
In more traditional organisations influence tends to be hierarchically based, and is centred on resource allocation, which is mainly driven from the top down. However, in new organisational forms influence is used to ensure that work, behavioural and change processes flow smoothly. Since these tend to take in lateral slices of the organisation, hierarchical authority is less effective for getting things done. More important are the capacity to motivate, persuade, appreciate, understand and negotiate.
These dimensions of influence, and others like them, are critical for ensuring a smooth flow of cooperative and mutually enhancing productive activity. Table I lists the four organisational processes with brief definitions. It also suggests corresponding activities in relation to the two managerial processes of exercising judgment and using influence. This framework has several uses. First, it can help managers to identify the processes and sub-processes where they have a value-adding role, and to develop a clearer consciousness about the impact of their behaviour on organisational outcomes.
Second, it acknowledges the creative part that all managers play in shaping the organisation’s structure through planned, as well as unplanned, evolutionary activities. Third, by pointing to the range of activities that constitute the exercise of judgment and the use of influence, it can be used to analyse the skills and competencies required by individual managers. Finally, as the final two sections in this article suggest, it has both research and teaching implications. Research directions There are several benefits to be gained from a process approach.
First, it is a way of extracting meaningful action sequences from the seemingly disconnected whirl of activity in which managers engage. Second, viewing management as a process draws attention to the ways in which activities and events unfold over time. This provides a fluid picture of what managers do as well as indicating how managerial work co-varies with other aspects of organisational action. Third, processes reflect the adaptations that managers and organisations make to a changing environment. This is an important aspect of managerial effectiveness.
From a process perspective, the initial task for the researcher is to identify the organisational processes or sub-processes where the manager has a value-adding role, and then to document how the action around those processes unfolds over time. Interestingly, a research strategy along these lines is usual in relation to behavioural sub-processes such as decision making (Archer, 1980) and organisational development (e. g. Schein, 1987), because they are well established as complex activity sequences which unfold over time. However, a process approach is rare in relation to broader based studies of managerial work.
To date, most attempts towards understanding the latter have focused on skills (Katz, 1974), the key competencies for general management (Kotter, 1982), roles and activities (Kraut et al. , 1989; Mintzberg, 1973), behaviours associated with speed of promotion (Luthans et al. , 1985) and competencies (Antonacopoulou and Fitzgerald, 1996). The methodologies supporting these projects have included diary studies where, for example, comparative data are obtained through recordings of time spent on various activities such as budgeting or committee work.
Activity sampling is used to build a comprehensive catalogue of managers’ activities, based on periodic snapshots. Structured observation provides a more dynamic sense of the action and the complexity of managerial work. Overall, these methods are well suited to studying tasks, skills and the like, but new or adapted methodologies may be needed for studies within the framework presented in this article. One method that could be adapted for the study of managerial processes is contextualist methodology (Pettigrew, 1985). Here, the focus is on processes within their context and events within their setting.
A process is continuous and is both “contained by structures and contains structures, either in the direction of preserving them or in that of altering them” (p. 239). Hence, this methodology appears suitable for the complex, time-based and grounded process concepts discussed in this paper. A classroom process for management development The literature offers many different descriptions of managerial work. Rather than being clear alternatives, the various approaches offer different concepts and perspectives encompassing roles, functions, skills, traits, competencies and so on.
These different approaches are typically discussed sequentially in texts and other literature dealing with managers and their world. However, it is not clear as to how well they complement one another, or indeed, where their inconsistencies lie. As anyone who has led an MBA or executive program in management knows, explaining the work of managers in theoretical terms is somewhat awkward and confusing. It is no longer sufficient to simply present a chronology of different approaches and hope that participants will gain some insight from each one.
Facilitators and academics need to address the issue of what it really means to be a manager in the new millennium, and develop theoretical and practical approaches that both reflect and guide managerial action in contemporary organisations. How can a process perspective enhance understandings in the classroom of the work of managers? There are two key advantages. First, in relation to historical changes in organisational structures towards more flexible and customer-oriented forms, processes are a logical starting point for discussions of what managers do.
Second, the process perspective provides an intermediate level of analysis through which practising managers and students can link their everyday activities to the immediate context as well as the longer term business development objectives of the organisation. Despite the logic of a process approach, it has not been favoured in the literature or in classroom discussions of what managers do. Why not? For many decades organisations have been conceptualised as hierarchies segmented into departments according to functional, product or other divisions.
Managers were the links in the chain of command which ensured that the significant communications flowed vertically. They were important on the basis of the position they held and their place in the hierarchy. Not surprisingly, writing and research became preoccupied with the characteristics of the person in the job. But now the shapes of organisations are changing and many things are different. Positions and position description do not mean what they once did. Communications that flow across and around the organisation are at least as important as those which flow upward.
The quality of core operational processes is critical because they serve as the direct link with the customer and the market. In this new context, managing is essentially about adding value through the exercise of sound judgment and the shaping of others’ behaviour in relation to organisational processes. We need fresh approaches to management development which acknowledge these emerging roles. A process approach provides a lively alternative to the three theorists who regularly appear in the opening chapters of the familiar texts (Fayol, 1988 for functions, Mintzberg, 1973, 1994 for roles and Katz, 1974 for skills).
The writer has found that when it comes to discussing the work that they do, most participants relate better to the dynamic world of processes than the static domain of fixed positions. Those employed in more traditional organisations (a shrinking number) find the experience of recasting themselves as process managers (as opposed to position holders) quite illuminating. The personal case study and analysis is a good way to start.
Facilitators can guide participants through the following steps, by asking them to: * (1) identify an organisational process where you have had a value-adding role (it may be as broad as organisational change or as specific as managing a customer account); * (2) in relation to this process, focus on your activities over a span of time which ended in a successful outcome (perhaps a new retail outlet was established or the size of the account was increased through creating better servicing arrangements); * (3) list and describe the things that you did which added value to the process during that period, ncluding specific activities and arrangements made, key choices and obstacles overcome; * (4) explain the ways in which your activities had an immediate benefit for the organization, contributed to the development of human or other assets or built organizational capacity for the longer term; * (5) Describe two or more instances where you needed to make a choice about what to do next, based on your professional knowledge and experience.
Now, describe two or more instances where your influence with others (colleague, direct report or client) was instrumental in moving the process forward. Individual preparation followed by group sharing, discussion and feedback is an effective way to conduct this exercise. Discussion tends to be animated and the overall experience is very satisfying for most participants.
Outcomes can be pooled to create a practice theory of process management for the group. From here, a variety of related topics can be explored, including the skills and competencies they require in their jobs, and the extent to which managerial skills are generic. Like the writer, others may find that the process perspective also provides a natural path into discussions of organizational structure and trends in organizational redesign.