A few recent events have inspired some thoughts on this topic, so I may as well write them down.
First, on May 28, I attended a presentation by Martin Nazareth at the Austin PMI Chapter meeting. The title of the presentation was “Strategy Linked to Mission and Vision.” However, what I took away from the presentation was:
- Why work on anything other than the most limiting constraint?
- The most limiting constraint is almost always people.
- Help people to improve themselves and the business improvements will follow.
- Help people be responsible and accountable rather than holding them responsible and accountable.
Second, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is in the process of transitioning from in-house to outsourced information technology (IT) support. Having been a consultant IT project manager for TxDOT since spring of 2009, I have developed many personal and professional relationships across the agency and have concerns about how this transition will impact my friends, colleagues, projects, and me. A couple of conversations have centered around the theory that what management does in pursuit of an organization’s goals is no more important than how those things are done, and that how you treat the impacted people has a huge effect on how efficiently and effectively changes are implemented. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” This is never more true than when making changes that impact many peoples’ livelihoods.
Finally, I participated yesterday in the PMI Agile Community of Practice webinar “Your Agile Leadership Gift” by Christopher Avery. He spoke of responsibility – which is horizontal, collaborative, and expansive – vs. accountability – which is vertical, hierarchical, and constraining. He spoke of the spectrum of natural human reactions to problems (deny, blame, justify, shame, obligation, quit, responsibility) and the importance of helping people get to the state of responsibility. When the sense of responsibility is greater than the sense of accountability, people are happier and more productive. Therefore, it is imperative to stress dynamics over mechanics and scalable behaviors more than scalable processes.
So, what is the most important aspect of management? As I age and hopefully become wiser, I am becoming more and more confident that it is neither profitability, domain knowledge, sales, statistics, negotiation, nor even strategic thinking. The most important aspect of management, as in most of life, is simply the desire and the ability to treat people well and to help them grow, learn, and improve themselves.