What value does top management add?

I got a mail from a client who I regard as leading the out-sourced help desk market. They are leading because they reduce the costs of out-sourcing over the life of the contract. How do they do this? By reducing the volume of demand (calls) by working on the causes of calls. Simple and effective; they are an exemplar of the systems approach.

Apparently, a senior manager had sent a mail ‘down’ the organisation asking for an explanation of the reported drop in the volume of calls. Obviously he was stuck in the old paradigm (‘we make our money from call volume’), despite the fact that the sales force now sells this method as a value-add service.

It begs the question: What value does top management add?

How can top management add value if they don’t have a thorough understanding of operations?


Meetings – the great alternative to work

Last month I received the following e-mail from a Local Authority manager:

Why do people in local authorities spend so much time attending meetings that achieve nothing? A lot of ‘managers’ are professional meeting attendees which separates them from the service/business they are supposed to be managing. (Main agenda item – ‘targets’ and ‘performance indicators’)

Local Authorities are made up of individual sections, departments, programme areas, executive directorships, teams, pools…etc…. of people who are supposed to be specialists at what they do. Therefore, to get anything done or to reach a decision, representatives from each of these groups have to get together to decide upon a way forward.

However, the people attending the meeting cannot make the decision until they report back to their ‘senior manager’ – who couldn’t attend the meeting because he had to report to his director about a meeting he attended the day before.

Result: No decision is made and consequently there are delays to the customer.

Guess what happens? Yes, you’ve got it – another meeting is held to find out why there are delays.

This reminded me of how one of my favourite clients behaves if he feels managers are spending too much time in meetings – he bans them from being more than twenty minutes. His argument is that if a meeting is taking longer than twenty minutes, people probably don’t have the facts. Naturally he teaches his managers to ‘start at check’ – they should thus know the ‘what and why’ of current performance before they meet with anyone.

But we should not be too hard on Local Authority, managers. After all, who has taught them anything about management? Certainly not ministers and civil servants.


Should ministers get out of management?

Managers might have room for improvement, but ministers are far, far worse at the business of management.

Consider what has happened in the UK. Government intervention has given us de-moralised workers and inefficient systems in our police, health and education services. We have a lot of bureaucracy and little or no improvement. The impact on morale suggests we have gone backwards rather than forwards.

Government promulgates bad practice as best practice with its programmes for ‘Best Value’, ISO 9000, the EFQM excellence model (see discussions of these).

By contrast, leaving the telecommunications industry to the private sector has led to a situation that could bring about a world-wide recession. The telecommunications companies have over-borrowed; they will have to re-structure, merge or some such to continue trading. The banks will be left with bad debts. The bad debts were caused by ‘competition’ for next-generation licences, the competition is caused by having a plethora of networks and service providers. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have one network that worked instead of four that don’t?

As we approach the election in the UK, we should all be asking our parliamentary candidates their view of the role of Government in the business of management. It can only get better.


More news from Japan

I have just received the following e-mail from Japan. Forgive the English, I reproduce it here without edits:

Dear John,

Yesterday, the introduction of your book appeared in the book-review column of ‘ISO management’, a monthly magazine, published by ‘Daily Industrial Journal’ company. The article says as follows:

Once in Japan it has been often said that many Japanese companies have got ISO9000 for registrations only, but in England they have been doing well. Now reading the book the recognition becomes false. All such as excessive documentation, fruitless debates with assessors etc. have occurred in Japan today, have already occurred proceeding in England. Everywhere in the book you may find such examples in England. But the author also tells you how to get away of the troubles, referring to Toyota production system and Deming’s thought. Now Japanese are in bad way with dealing with ISO9000 registrations. The
book will help you correct your false recognition.

As I said in the last newsletter, I predict sales of this book in Japan will be greater than sales in the rest of the world. Japanese managers are, simply, more curious.


New Best Value seminar

To help managers of local authorities and emergency services understand the value of taking a systems approach to Best Value (see my paper on the better way). The seminar is offered in-house and covers:

‘Command and control’ and the systems approach – an historical perspective
Case studies from the private sector
Case studies from local authorities and police organisations