Managing, Coping or Reacting – when did the remit change?

When I think back over my career I can see that there have been people who have held a ‘management’ post in various organisation I have worked for who have truly managed. Be that people, process or projects.

When I sit back today and reflect on those of us, myself included, who are managers I wonder how much of our time we actually spend managing.

Previously time would have been set aside for management tasks, succession planning, monitoring recruitment and retention, planning appraisals, one to ones, objective setting and personal development. In addition there would have been the ‘allocation and process management’ – making sure things are done, by the right people, at the right time, in the right place and to the right quality.

Now I look at my time and most of it is spent working. Actual doing, reacting to changes and events around me and supporting my team and colleagues to do what we need to get done. Some planning but with always some time set aside to allow for ‘the unforeseen’.

We used to have layers of management that we were told were unnecessary and could be stripped out, and we could all pick up their roles within our own. Theoretically this has been the case, everything still gets done, some of it well, some of it last minute, and some of it barely. I so wonder if by stripping out this layer of ‘function’ we have created more issues for ourselves and turned ourselves from managers to copers and reactors.

A wise manager of mine, from who I learned a lot once told me a saying that has stuck with me ever since ‘A failure to plan on their part does not constitute an emergency on mine’. This used to be true, but now I think the focus has changed and we work a 50/50 split between preplanned and emergency reacting.

Proctive management, building teams and developing people seem to be becoming secondary tasks, and ones that are shared across various managers and team members. Crisis Management is becoming more and more the norm, with managers, directors, executives being pulled down into lower level responsibities.

Strategy and people are suffering as a result, what effect will all of this have?
I fear it may be a few years yet before we are truly able to see if there is any impact.

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