"Frank's skill in asking the right questions is un-mistakable, and is at the core of his leadership philosophy.

The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
—John Cave
Westhaven Worldwide Logistics

If not otherwise stated—all postings © Frank D. Kanu. All rights reserved.

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Stop Telling... Start Leading!

Management Functions

Traditional management theory tells us that the typical management functions are:
  1. Planning
  2. Organization
  3. Employment
  4. Guidance
  5. Controlling

    These functions are valid, and it’s useful to step back and explore where they originated.

    Going back in history, we can see the first stirrings of what we call management quite early. Such enormous projects as the building of the pyramids or the construction of the Roman aqueducts required workers of varying degrees of skills to supply the actual labor. That labor was overseen by people who ensured that productivity was high.

    The gains made in “management” in ancient Europe and Asia were countered by setbacks during the Middle Ages. There were no societies like the Roman or Egyptian empires to oversee the creation or completion of great undertakings. The economy was more centered on individual activity.

    Until relatively recently, in fact, production was primarily a local activity; craftspeople and artisans produced goods on a small scale. The individual owner/artisan completely controlled production—manufacturing, selling, repairing, and creating new products. Various aspects of the production process might be delegated, usually to family members. Artisans trained others to produce by taking on apprentices; often, apprenticeships were handed down from generation to generation in the same family. The artisan served as a sort of “guidance worker” to the apprentice.

Are there “guidance workers” in your company?

    Beginning in the late 18th century, when social, political, economic, and technological changes heralded the Industrial Revolution, the concept of management as we know it today started taking shape. The Industrial Revolution spurred on the now common practice of division of labor, thanks in part to the invention of machines that could do the most onerous and time-consuming tasks. As a result, workers became specialized, often in single, simple and easy-to-learn tasks. This increased the distance between the apprentice and the guidance worker. One negative side effect of this was that the individual worker lost the opportunity to be involved with the complete production process. This created the need for more experienced workers (often who had been given the more traditional apprenticeship training) to lead and oversee the production. A positive side effect of this arrangement was that production increased, sometimes dramatically. The combination of increased mechanization and increased capacity to produce meant that more raw materials were needed (never mind the new machines). The results? Manufacturers needed more capital. Because the volume of capital was so much larger, it became clear that people would be needed to manage the financial aspects of the business. Eventually, management became an essential component in planning, organization, and controlling.

    In many countries the bureaucracy had (and still has) a strong influence on the development of systematic management in developing large-scale enterprises. To their credit, bureaucracies can ease the expansion of the enterprises and also ensure the economic growth of the country. One could say that bureaucracies act as “owners” just as in traditional companies, and as such they need managers to keep things running efficiently.

    As the relationship between “owners” and “managers” emerged, forward-thinking owners realized that they needed to find managers. At first, they looked to the family for their leaders (many companies still do this to varying degrees), but it became increasingly clear that the best way to succeed was to hire the most competent people to do the job.


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To manage

  1. take responsibility
  2. lead, be in charge
  3. observe and direct
  4. supervise
  5. execute
  6. negotiate

Do you manage—by this definition?

There are three main classifications to better understand what a manager does:
1. Intrapersonal
        Representative    Supervisor    Connector 2
2. Informational
        Receiver    Sender    Speaker
3. Decision Maker
        Innovator    Peace Maker    Administrator
Managers shouldn’t think they need to be able to mold their personality to accommodate all of these traits or qualities. Smart managers, in fact, know that they can overcome their own weaknesses—sometimes by working on themselves, other times by delegating to people they trust. Managers, who think they’re perfect, or even close to perfect, can be dangerous.

Can you name your five biggest strengths?

Can you name your five biggest weaknesses?

2 Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Back Bay Books, 2002)


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Short and Sweet?

Smart and Lazy

You may have heard the story of the plant manager who was asked his secret to success. “When there’s a tough job, I get a lazy person to do it,” he explained. “The lazy person will find the easiest and fastest way to get the job done.” Smart and lazy employees are good at finding new and efficient ways to solve problems. They only go above and beyond when there’s an absolute need to act. (Sometimes this is a plus; as smart and lazy people won’t get caught up in minor problems.) When they do need to act, they think, plan, and execute quite effectively. Not surprisingly, they’re also good at delegating. These people tend not to move beyond middle management in the organization. In part, they don’t exhibit the necessary ambition, but also because top management sees them as too valuable to lose.

If they’re good at what they do, why offer them challenges or a chance to grow?

Who in your team is smart and lazy?


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Smart and Diligent

In his book On War, the German military leader Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) describes these mangers very well 3. They tend to be specialists and experts. Irreplaceable—especially when your companies’ main business is research and development.

Who in your team is smart and diligent?

Are they working in research and development?

3 Clausewitz became famous although he died before completing On War—one of the most influential military and economical writings. Way too often it is not obvious that an idea originated from him. For example the Win-Win principle is an economical use of Clausewitz’s alliance theory.
Among the better known readers of On War is Henry Kissinger. It was translated into innumerable languages, making it one of the most widely known books on Earth. Read at most military schools and also in many management schools like Harvard.


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Dense and Diligent

These are the worker bees. They execute everything according to plan—no matter the costs. Rules and standards are important and will always be followed religiously. They may be valuable for certain tasks and they’re always willing to work harder. But they lack (or seem to lack) the creativity needed to solve complex problems, or the understanding to know when to ignore the rules and standards.

Who in your team is dense and diligent?

Does your company need worker bees?


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