Mangement As A Practise
Instead, if we follow Professor Mintzberg's prescription, we can make Managing a more involved, interesting business. However, before that, one possibly needs to answer a more fundamental question - why manage? It seems like a no-brainer, but people will actually have different answers to that question. Some manage because they have a job to do - they say they have to pay their bills. Others manage because they have to make money, only that - they would rather play Golf instead if they did not have to use other people's energies to keep their enterprises going. However, management is a human social activity, as much as anything else, and if inspiring and connecting with other people does not appeal to you, the task of management is only going to be a drag.
In the interview, Professor Mintzberg also points to the artificial differentiation between management and leadership. Leadership without management will be incoherent, and Management without leadership, uninspiring. The current disconnect between the two possibly comes from the fundamental misalignment of the purpose of management, indeed the purpose of business in the first place.
Businesses are social organizations, set up for the purpose of generating a reward for the entrepreneurs, which combine people's efforts, raw materials and opportunities, to solve social problems. Unless a business does any of these - generate a reward, combine resources and solve social problems - it will be unprofitable, uncompetitive and unsustainable, respectively. And, in today's marketplace, where global resources and opportunities create a confluence like never before, businesses have nowhere to hide if they fail on either of these counts.
If we are looking at the practise of management beyond the trivialities of seeing it as a job and naivete's like doing it to make money, we know it is about making a group of diverse individuals work towards a common set of goals, and making optimum use of resources without losing sight of the core job of a business - solving social problems. That way, management is leadership, and one can not really peel away the function of navigation from the person on the wheels easily.
Besides, coming back to the original point made by Mintzberg - management as a practise - our knowledge of what our objectives should be, how to marshal our resources and what external factors will influence our journey, are very limited. Hence, trying to hide behind statistical models and dated theories, particularly those devised in the context of a different culture, is rather useless, and likely to become value-destroying. As he points out, successful managers [and leaders] make it up as they go - and most cases, their experiences become grounding of future theories. But, if we truly analyze management excellence, it will possibly come down to conscious practise, backed by reflection and feedback, and a high level of commitment.
However, my own experiences of managerial life is that there is very little space for reflection. While there are structured tools - reviews, appraisals, brainstorming sessions - in order to enable precisely this, management today is dominated by the 'scientific' dogma, apart from the very unscientific egoism that comes in the way because of the human involvement in the tasks. So, while the theories tend to define the world of business in cold economic terms, the practise of management remains a deeply imperfect, largely political process, where reflection, unless it is imbibed as a value system, is impossible to do. This is possibly precisely the space where corporate coaches to do so well, allowing an impersonal, analytical, reflective perspective to practising managers; but more has to be done, and such reflection needs to become mainstream, routine activity, featuring near the top of a manager's agenda and priorities.