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Posted by Tim Bryce on February 5, 2012


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

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

One Response to “10% EFFECTIVENESS”

  1. Tim Bryce said

    A J.D. of Columbus, Ohio wrote…

    “Interesting article Tim. Was the study conducted locally, in Europe, in The States, or Worldwide. I would be really interested to know. I have always been a decisive manager. Sometimes I made decisions that should have been made by a higher pay level, but I was always willing to defend my position. Many managers I worked with would have ‘run to their superior’ (in our organization our Superior was the Director), to figure out what to do. I never did that. The poor Director couldn’t make a decision to save his life–and his superior (Our VP) knew this and he basically found a way to chastise our poor Director if the decision was incorrect. I usually bypassed my Director. I thought he was a great guy–but his face would turn a dark shade of red, nearly turned purple and his forehead beaded up if you ran to him to make a decision for you–and I wasn’t going to be the one to cause that man a heart attack. Sometimes my VP and I would have these *ahem* friendly discussions about my decisions and I was always willing to defend any decision I made. The one thing that he would say to me is ‘You have a lot of guts’ and I would correct him and say ‘I just have a strong backbone.’ It always showed up on my reviews: I had excellent decision making skills. Not all of my decisions were right or even mine to make–but they always had my back. You wouldn’t think it walking out of the pow-wow with my VP at times–but the one thing I’ll say about him is he always stood by any decision I made as long as I could defend it. As for that portion of the review where they went over how well I followed directions from my superiors— he he he —well let’s just say I would point out what a great team worker I was right away!! (Nope–I swear I am not a rebel!)”

    A W.K. of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania wrote…

    “This column makes me think of the one of the topics that should at least be taught in grade school or maybe business school and that is ‘Failing Successfully’. From the media on down it seems that we as Americans are taught to try to do everything in a way that we cannot fail at all. Not having a realization that half of life is failing and that how one chooses to respond to that failure is what defines them, and potentially their lives. There is that quote about the number of failures Abraham Lincoln had before he became successful as president. It seems sometimes live in a large part we lost the ability to bounce back from failure. Your piece reminded me of and I concur that it is an issue in business.

    The other topic I spent time thinking on that is relevant is called ‘coping with success’. In the addiction movement, for instance, people will tell a recovering person that the riskiest time in their recovery is when things are going well and in fact that is the time when most people will fall off the wagon. I think we see the same thing as society as a whole with the actors and actresses politicians and wealthy doing stupid things to not themselves off their pedestal. It seems to me that there is something inside of us that says we don’t deserve the success and it frequently we will then carry out behaviors that will be self-destructive and unconscious process. The poster boy for this is our Rhodes Scholar president Bill Clinton made the choice is a 54-year-old man and leader of the free world to get his rocks off with a 20-year-old intern. I’ve always wondered if he thought what he would do when his daughter was 20 if you found that the 54-year-old CEO of a Wall Street firm where he got her an internship was playing with his daughter.

    I enjoy your work Tim. Keep up the good work.”

    A T.C. of Colorado wrote…

    “Good read Tim, I saw this same phenomenon in the fire service over the last part of my career. Decision making seemed to have been bred out of fire officers, a terrible situation in an emergency. Many ‘leaders’ had plenty of degrees and book knowledge, but struggled to translate in into the real world at real time. All I can say is I’m glad I retired in one piece.”

    A B.H of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “Think about it for a minute. In today’s environment (and I mean military AND business) – the simple ACCUSATION of impropriety (sexual, harrassment, bias, personal conduct, etc) is sufficient to convict a manager of the wrong. You are guilty until proven innocent – and after a lengthy process, you might be cleared, but your reputation is still tainted (thus, you’re still guilty). And, because those above you are afraid the scandal will stain THEM, they will take pre-emptive action and remove you from the job pending the review/investigation. But, you never get the job back, and in all likelihood, you’ll never move UP the ladder from there. They simply want you to disappear, and become invisible.

    This attitude is kind of why people don’t really WANT to be managers and leaders – it puts them into a vulnerable position which really is a no win situation. I have friends who turned down command-at-sea (or ashore) and who were OUTSTANDING leaders. They just didn’t want the hassles and legal issues associated with being a commanding officer. In fact, one friend of mine (who was my next-door neighbor in Scotland when he was an Ensign and I was a Lieutenant Commander) eventually became a Commanding Officer at our station in Puerto Rico. He told me that there was not one single day in his three year tour as CO when his name did not appear on AT LEAST one lawsuit – either individually, as the CO, or as the local representative of the US Navy/government. That’s a huge burden for an individual to have to bear – and it makes a huge difference in the decisions you make, because you know someone, somewhere, is watching your decisions and actions like a hawk, just waiting for you to make one little mistake that can give them the leverage they need to win a case in court and be financially set for life.

    Time was, a commanding officer at sea was GOD. His (and now her) decisions were final. There was no second-guessing by paper pushers, lawyers, or anyone else. It made for a few instances of the Captain Queeg syndrome, but those were certainly few and far between. Now, you simply have people that want to ‘get through’ their tour as CO and move on to the administrative commands where they have a chance to become even more senior but with less ‘personal’ risk.”

    An M.F. of Houston, Texas wrote…

    “Very telling (and scary) article!”

    An K.S. of Oklahoma wrote…

    “Well now, this is definitely something that I see and agree with wholeheartedly. When we look at the word ‘Leader’, we need to realize that Leaders are chosen. That is, those in the trenches of our companies CHOOSE to follow them. Whether it be because of their integrity, business knowledge or accomplishments, etc. Leaders are leaders because others HAVE CHOSEN to allow them to lead them.

    In light of this article, it is quite obvious why our society has so few real leaders.”


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