Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three Planes of Managing.....(Henry Mintzberg)

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I read Henry Mintzberg's Interview in WSJ. Very interesting interview and provided lot of insights on managers and management. Mintzberg calls the idea of a manager being a composer and an orchestra conductor - a glorifed myth.

I love the section from the interview where he talks about the three planes of managing. I don't think that managing can be defined any simpler than this.

"Basically, managing is about influencing action. Managing is about helping organizations and units to get things done, which means action.
Managers manage actions directly. They fight fires. They manage projects. They negotiate contracts.One step removed, they manage people. Managers deal with people who take the action, so they motivate them and they build teams and they enhance the culture and train them and do things to get people to take more effective actions.And two steps removed from that, managers manage information to drive people to take action—through budgets and objectives and delegating tasks and designing organization structure and all those sorts of things."
From my personal experience, i fully agree with his assessment of what is wrong with most of the managers today - 'that they manage too much through information without getting into the first two planes of managing'. I have seen managers who think it is beneath them to get their hands dirty. So i was smiling when i read the paragraph below. I can't agree more :-)
"Today I think we have much too much managing through information—what I call "deeming." People sit in their offices and think they're very clever because they deem that you will increase sales by 10%, or out the door you go. Well, I can do that. My granddaughter could do that; she's four. It doesn't take genius to say: Increase sales or out you go. That's the worst of managing through information."
It is not that managing through information is wrong. Project Managers who mostly work in the first two planes need to learn to 'manage through information' if they want to rise in their career. Mintzberg suggests that people in the third plane give enough attention to 'Execution' and 'People' even if they have to manage mostly in the third plane.
"BUSINESS INSIGHT: What's the alternative?
DR. MINTZBERG: The alternative is to give more attention to the people plane and the action plane. Even when you're managing information, you can manage in a much more nuanced way than just shooting a bunch of figures around."
If a manager understands these three planes and decides the plane of action based on the situation, i am sure he/she will be a very good manager.
You can read the interview here. His latest book Managing is in my reading list.

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