Marks on Management
“Management by objectives (MBO) is a systematic and organized approach that allows management to focus on achievable goals and to attain the best possible results from available resources.” – Peter Drucker
“Management by Fred (MBF): Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.” – Fred Marks, and others
If you spend any amount of time in airport shops or large chain bookstores, you will quickly discover that the largest growth industry in the United States (and on some distant planets) is writing “how-to” management books.
There are scads of people out there – some famous, some not so famous – who are selling their “secrets” to a successful career, more money, more rewards, shorter work hours and a house on a tropical island in books. These “experts” have full-face pictures on the back covers, the books are prominently displayed and you will probably overpay for their insights.
Sometimes the authors use ghostwriters, sometimes not. The authors all boast having some accomplishment or degree of notoriety. In addition to buying the books, you also can hire these authors to speak at your meetings or conferences for outrageous fees (plus expenses for themselves and their staffs). If you’re lucky, you’ll get to shake hands with them as they walk off the podium and collect their fees or stand in line to buy autographed copies of the books after the speeches. (Just make sure they spell your name correctly.)
If you ask one of these authors a specific question about a problem you have at work, he or she will give you a general answer such as, “It’s in Chapter 4 of my book,” and you will go away, bathed in the glow of speaking to a famous person. Only when you read Chapter 4 of the book will you discover that the solution is something you knew all the time, except that it’s phrased differently.
Here are my 10 secrets to being a successful manager, based on an undistinguished and understated career in public purchasing. The list was not ghostwritten, nor do I have a staff. The three-year-old computer on the old kitchen table in the basement is my spacious office. My files are neatly kept in a plastic milk carton from Smedley Dairies and there are hockey pictures on the wall. I am available to speak at your meetings and conferences for a nominal fee and will autograph almost anything for you, except a blank check.
1. You were hired/promoted because someone had confidence in you. Someone thought you could provide leadership and direction better than anyone else and had enough confidence in you to give you your present job. Don’t let him or her down!
2. Have a clear vision of your job. Transmit the vision to your staff and have them buy into it. Be professional! Learn your job and also the job of everyone who works for you.
3. Make it enjoyable for people to come to work. You can’t control the external factors, such as who they deal with or the problems they have to solve, but you can control how the office environment affects their jobs and productivity.
4. Talk to them frequently. Find out what they do, how they do it, what are their successes and what are their frustrations.
5. Start at the middle and work down. If you get the people in the middle on your side, your job is more than half done. The sergeants run the army and the chiefs run the navy. You need middle management on your side to accomplish your goals.
6. Learn people’s names. Nothing brings a smile to people’s faces like remembering their names or details about their lives or their work. Be sincere when you talk to them. If they are frustrated, encourage them to talk to their supervisors about it and follow up to see if their problems can be solved.
7. You can’t solve everyone’s problems or make everyone happy all the time. Do your best to have a better than .500 batting average. Understand that there are people who don’t like you, your style, your socks or anything about you. That is their problem, not yours, as long as you do your best. Make your decisions consistent and sustainable. There is nothing worse than inconsistency in management and personnel decisions. You have to decide for yourself which are frivolous questions (“What is the speed of Dark?”) and which are legitimate (“Do our rules allow us to do this?”). Treat each kind with the attention each deserves.
8. Make your bosses look good and try to anticipate their questions. Keep them informed. There are some things they don’t want to hear. Learn what they are and stay silent. Remember Sgt. Schultz in “Hogan’s Heroes”? “I hear NOSSING.”
9. Be consistent in your dealings with people, your moods, your attitudes and your general demeanor. It’s brutal for someone on your staff to try to figure out who you will be today.
10. Reward people. People like to have a sense of worth. It can be a recognition of their accomplishments, a letter placed in a personnel file, a public acknowledgment, a trinket, a lunch, a better assignment next time, a bigger cubicle, even money – but make it something and make it of value to them, not you.
About the Author
Frederick Marks, CPPO, VCO (Virginia contracting officer), is a retired purchasing officer who held positions as a supervising buyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as well as director of material management for Northern Virginia Community College. Contact Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org.