Management responsibilities, what are they?

management responsibilities, what are they?

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.

How to align Kaizen and business objectives?

When you have specific business improvement goals as part of your Business Plan and strategies, it is easier to identify where you should focus on kaizen activities.  But even if you don’t, you can still align your kaizen to your business goals.  Let’s take a look at how you would do it under each scenario.

Objectives, Strategies, and Action Plans

As part of the Business Plan, you have goals and objectives. They represent what you want to accomplish. The strategy is the way you choose to achieve those objectives. The plan is what tells you how you are going to do it. In other words, the strategy gives you the framework for decisions, and the action plan tells you the specific actions to achieve each goal.

For example, one of your objectives is to increase sales from x to y. The strategy or way to do it is by growing the business by 10%. Before making decisions, you would ask yourself how it will affect or support your goal. The action plan to achieve this objective is to increase brand awareness or introduce a special sale. These are specific steps that detail how you are going to accomplish the objective.

Kaizen as part of the action plan

Most entrepreneurs analyze the current year’s results and then develop next year’s goals. Achieving those goals means achieving the desired conditions for profitability, delivery, quality, and people. From these statements of intent, you move to develop specific objectives, a clear target, or destination.

The next step to build your business map is to establish a strategy, the way or process to achieve the objective. At this time, you can identify in what department or area this activity will have more impact on the KPI’s. Use this information to create a detailed plan of how to accomplish the target. Now you can incorporate continuous improvement or kaizen events as part of that plan. The kaizen events will help to achieve the objectives. These events will close the gap between the current state and the future state.

Continuous improvement or kaizen is not part of the business plan

When the business plan does not include the improvement plan, you can still align kaizen with it.  Under this scenario, your team is dealing with problems without a map to guide their actions with the business goals. Their actions impact productivity, quality, cost, and delivery.  Daily kaizen, and events, can help to overcome those challenges by improving the process and solving operational problems.  With daily kaizen, your team will tackle many pain points. However, some recurrent issues with high impact in the business deserve a kaizen event.

Before planning your events, understand the problems first. Engage your team in talking to key players and customers to learn about their pain points and needs. The same group can generate ideas for possible kaizen events. After this, validate those ideas to see if they align with the objectives or drive business KPI’s. With a refined list of kaizens, the next step is to prioritize. Do this based on the effort vs. impact or benefits level. After this, you are ready to start planning kaizen.

The critical of kaizen and business objectives

The critical part of both processes is to align kaizen with the business objectives. Maybe, it is easier to start with the target followed by the strategy, plan, and kaizen. But creating a pool of event ideas followed by validation and alignment with the objectives is efficient as well. The critical part of each scenario or method is to choose and target the right KPI’s. Your KPI’s should measure customer satisfaction, quality, delivery, and cost. Let’s keep improving!

What is a strategy? Do you have one?

Strategy is game plan, the framework to make decisions.
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Strategy and Planning

Many people confuse strategy with planning.  A strategy is the game plan for strengthening your business performance.  It establishes the framework to make decisions. In other words, it defines the way to conduct business, deliver value to your customers, and achieve target profits. On the other hand, planning is how you are going to achieve the business objectives and goals.

A plan without a strategy will not be effective.  Every organization needs a shared vision of where it is going. In addition, it needs to know what is the business model, and what will drive decisions.  The strategy is how you are going to overcome the biggest hurdles. It is what guides everybody in the same direction.

You create a plan after you know where you are going and what will frame the decision-making process.  Each project is specific for a goal and contains the detailed steps to achieve it. Effective planning requires a look into the company’s strengths and weaknesses and taking countermeasures.  

Continuous Improvement, Lean as a business strategy

Lean is a business management system, that when it is implemented as a whole, constitutes a great framework to conduct business.   The goal of lean or continuous improvement is to provide the customer with the highest quality, at the lowest cost, in a shorter time.  Therefore, by using lean as a strategy, you will set your business for success.

Hoshin planning is the process used to identify and address critical business needs and develop people’s capabilities.   Continuous improvement or lean is a strategy to win by developing the team into problem solvers.  At times of economic uncertainty, it is critical to respond to changes in the business environment as fast as possible.  

When you and your employees know how to identify and respond to the daily challenges, the opportunities for success grow exponentially. Never is late to change your strategy, and win!