Frequently requested to assist organisations large and small, I observe a common and recurring theme.
The issues revolve around the struggle of owners /managers to manage effectively. This is visible predominantly in companies that have started small and are growing, in family run businesses and families themselves.
They are invariably puzzled that management approach, style and methods which worked so well in the past, now just don't work anymore. They resort to even more hard work and effort, yet the situation only worsens.
Finding themselves in unfamiliar situations they dart here and there implementing fads, half hearted strategies alien to their thinking and character. They do this because they are getting frustrated and doing something is considered better than doing nothing. They change staff and managers. They churn product mix, vendors and even customers and markets. They try so many things but nothing seems to work. They change almost everything except themselves or their approach.
When a person is a founder owner/ manager or head of a family then they have to by necessity wear many turbans. They have no choice but to be multi tasked, handling everything in their organisation. They work by instinct and gut feeling and this gives them speed and they can reconcile all aspects of the organisation's needs effectively and almost instantaneously. Requirements of business in its initial stages differ significantly from those of the growth and consolidation phases. Then again a new growth phase and so on. The approach and style of management need to change.
When the owner /manager leader refuses to change the approach they become the bottleneck. No wonder it is said, "the neck is always at the top of the bottle."
Owners and specially founder owners are not always easy people to get along with. It is the same stubbornness and determination that made them successful in the first place. However they tend to be mercurial, temperamental, and impulsive. So their team is often clueless and always have to second guess the boss. No one dares tell the boss that he or she is the problem, unless they are ready to go job hunting.
The type of boss for founding a business , for growth phase and for consolidation and next phase growth, all have to be different. Alternately the boss too needs to change his style and approach with the times. Unfortunately the leader rarely finds the need to change.
Why this blind spot or reluctance to change? There are several reasons;
Success brings rigidity. Once owners and managers find a style that worked they freeze the approach. They assume it will continue to work irrespective of size or even business. They fail to appreciate that the game has changed and so must the style. They also carry the same style to different types of businesses with frustrating results. A trader diversifying into manufacturing has problems when he treats his industrial and manufacturing activities the same way as he did in trading etc. Another example is a person blindly bringing his military methods to civilian situations is more likely to fail than succeed.
Arrogance. When owners have control over resources and people they sometimes get ahead of themselves and tend to become inconsiderate, rude and arrogant. Nothing blinds a person more than arrogance. They refuse to listen having closed their minds to others.
Cronyism. The owner-manager is surrounded by a close circle of assistants. These people derive their power by their close proximity with the owner-manager, and they do not allow the system to change. Any change has the potential to disturb the status quo and destabilise the power of these key assistants or cronies. It is shocking how often I encounter trouble situations, where a lowly but powerful assistant keeps things centred around him or her. The clients had become prisoners of their own making and could not proceed with any major initiatives or restructuring because of the smooth sabotaging of their own assistants.
Inefficient, unaccountable and dishonest staff. have a field day when things are chaotic as they can never be found out. They always work to sabotage all attempts to organise.
Unwillingness to let go.They recruit someone to do a job and then keep interfering. Power nourishes the ego and people get addicted to power.
Every owner believes he is an expert on every function in the organisation and often does not let the person any freedom to execute his or her job. ( Often they themselves are not clear what job they want their assistants to do). Routine things must be done in a routine manner
Failure to accept that strategising and planning is also important work. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Many a time the owners fail to appreciate that planning detailing, reviewing or systemising as important work. Hence needless activity often drives out purposeful and important work.
Yesterdays methods were acceptable for yesterday's competition. If owners and leaders refuse to change then they run the risk of losing everything including their reputation and their savings.