In one of my first classes of my master’s degree, I learned the management responsibilities or functions. The professor indicated that management consist of four general obligations. Those are planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. However, the explanation failed to include the responsibilities of a leader from the continuous improvement lenses.
Planning as the number one responsibility
There is no doubt that planning is one of the most recognized functions of an entrepreneur or manager. Planning should start with grasping the situation. Hence, define the problem or describe the desired state is the first step before start planning. The following steps are to define the gap, create strategies, set objectives, and determine resources.
In continuous improvement, planning entails the same things. Perhaps, the method used is different because it involves people from different levels of the organization. Strategy deployment addresses critical business needs by aligning goals, strategy and the company’s resources at all levels. Moreover, it develops the skills and capabilities of the team. It does so by engaging them to answer the question of how do we get there? Leaders guide their teams using their experience and PDCA. The use of the PDCA cycle provides a framework to identify potential problems and countermeasures.
Management responsibilities organizing and staffing
In a traditional enterprise, managers would design jobs, specify tasks, and allocate resources. They would also create an organizational structure and set policies and procedures. All that is still true in a continuous improvement environment. However, there are a couple of differences in how to achieve those tasks.
In a CI culture, managers are also teachers. Their main job is to develop themselves and develop their staff. One way to do it is by teaching them how to manage the daily activities. For instance, daily coordination activities, allocate resources, daily problem-solving, and standards creation. Managers oversee and support supervisors and middle managers. Support means teaching them how to do it and provide the resources. It also means to listen to their concerns and help with high-level decisions. Set them for success by establishing clear rules and limits, so they know when to escalate the problem or situation.
Leading and controlling, two more management responsibilities
While creating strategy, leaders set direction and provide a purpose. Those tasks are critical to lead and motivate employees to accomplish organizational goals. In addition, effective communication and clear rules to manage change and conflicts are also fundamental. Some of those conflicts are related to employee performance. In a traditional culture, controlling refers to measure performance and compare it to standards. Also, this responsibility includes taking the appropriate steps as per the performance level. That is recognition, salary increase, promotion, training, or a development plan to take care of weaknesses or inefficiencies.
In a traditional setting, leading and controlling are seen as two different things, but in CI, they are part of one. Leadership in a CI culture lead by example, teaching and coaching their staff while visiting the work area every day. They motivate by providing learning experiences and challenging the team to be the best they can be. Performance assessment is part of the development process. However, it is focused on employee development, not a way to punish low performance.
What are the responsibilities of a manager, business owner, or entrepreneur?
Management’s job is to help the staff to do better by providing purpose and direction while supporting the daily activities. In other words, managers should be servant leaders first, and everything else, second.
The daily activities should be the responsibility of the supervisors and their teams, including daily improvements. Managers support their direct reports by listening and learning from them what help they need. Then, they can allocate the resources, make high-level decisions, or remove barriers.
When leadership does not respect their staff, it will command instructions and control their actions. In a continuous improvement culture, respect for humanity is a tenet. Therefore, command and control are not a way to fulfill management responsibilities. Most importantly, that behavior should be identified as non-acceptable and banned from the culture.