The Messiness of Managerial Work

Sections of this topic

    Recently I watched my husband complete a crossword puzzle. He started with four down because that is where it was easiest for him. Then he focused his efforts on a small section of the puzzle trying to respond to both the across and down clues until he got stuck.

    After awhile he moved to another section of the puzzle with the intent of coming back to the earlier section when he acquired some additional insight. He changed his mind on several occasions and needed to erase two previous answers. In frustration, he put the puzzle down to eat lunch, did some errands and then went back again.

    What I realized is that completing crossword puzzle has many of the same aspects as managerial work. The process is rather messy in nature and can lead to frustration. Sometimes you think you’re going in the right direction and then you find that you need to backtrack. Decisions are made that don’t lead to the desired outcome and you may have to return to the “drawing board”.

    Being wrong is not necessarily bad!

    Some manager may think if it doesn’t go right the first time then the project or the team is failing. You may need a different approach especially when new information comes in that does not fit nicely in the original plan. In truth, knowing something doesn’t work is valuable insight. You can then fix it before it does great damage.

    Managers need to continually keep their antennae up for information that alerts them to possible problems – the things that can grow into big headaches. For example, if you’re about to finalize a change in a major business process to enhance customer satisfaction, take a break and get input before making decisions. Find out from the folks who will be carrying out this new process where the possible glitches are and if it might do more harm than good.

    Management Success Tip:

    The fact that many management situations do not lend themselves to quick easy solutions can be frustrating. However, once it’s accepted that problem solving and decision making are messy processes, it is easier to cope with the complex nature of managerial work. When was the last time you did a crossword puzzle? Is it similar or different from your work as a manager?

    Do you want to develop your Management Smarts?