I recently came upon a research paper addressing the effectiveness of today’s managers. Actually, the paper was produced back in 2004 (Business Strategy Review, Vol 15, Issue 3, pages 4-13), but I do not believe much has changed in the last eight years in this regard. The report was produced by Heike Bruch of the Universität St. Gallen and Sumantra Ghoshal of the London Business School (now deceased). In the study, the researchers revealed some interesting findings regarding the indecisiveness of managers:

“What we found in our research surprised us. Only about 10 percent of the managers took purposeful action.” The remainder were busy, just not very effective: 40 percent were energetic but unfocused; 30 percent had low energy, little focus and tended to procrastinate; and 10% were focused, but not very energetic.

Now let that sink in: only 10% of the managers took purposeful action.

To me, that is a frightening statistic. It means the other 90% are scared to make a decision, most likely because it may be construed to be politically incorrect, too risky, or may not meet with the approval of their superiors. Whatever the reason, it means managers are dodging the decisions they are paid to make.

Americans used to be known as “take charge” people who were bold and decisive in their actions, Unfortunately, such an image has been relegated to Hollywood and comic books. If the 10% figure is indeed correct, and I strongly suspect it is, then we have a generation of managers who are incapable of setting goals, managing priorities, leading people, and seeing projects through to successful completion. Maybe it’s time for some serious management training, not just some “feel good” sessions where we hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” Then again, maybe we are satisfied with a culture of sacrificing production for feeling good about ourselves. I suspect this may be one reason why the country’s GDP is lagging.

I learned a long time ago that “not to decide, is to decide,” meaning a decision will be made regardless of whether I participate in the process or not, and usually not to my liking. Perhaps this is why we no longer have any control over our destiny; we tend to avoid making unpopular decisions as it may affect our image as a lovable person. The sooner a manager realizes he/she is not in a popularity contest, the sooner they will get the results the company needs.

We should also be mindful of the old adage, “If you make at least 51% of your decisions correctly, you will be a success.” As a young man, I found this premise difficult to digest, but as I got older I saw the wisdom in it. Quite simply it means it is virtually impossible to make 100% of your decisions correctly. As humans, we all make mistakes, but we must never fear to make a decision and persevere. This is like playing baseball but refusing to come up to the plate. At some point, we must all take a swing at the ball, and we should put forth our best effort, determined and aggressive. No, you won’t bat 1.000, but it sure is nice when you hit one out of the park now and then.

As a systems man, I advise our clients there is little point in producing information if nobody is going to act on it. I have personally seen many major systems where reports were routinely produced, messages flashed, and some rather imaginative technology. However, what is the purpose of these systems if the user doesn’t act on the information received? Are we just going through some bureaucratic motions or are there some business actions and decisions to be made?

If we lived in a perfect world, there would not be a need for managers; projects would be executed on time and within cost. However, the reality is, we live in an imperfect world. People make mistakes, project assignments come in late and over budget. Managers must remember they are in the business of solving problems, not running from them. In terms of effectiveness, even the most mammoth organizational bureaucracy pales in comparison to a single determined manager.

For more information on these management concepts, see my e-book entitled, “THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! – Empowering Managers in today’s Corporate Culture”. If you also need consulting assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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