Jun 24, 2010

What makes a good manager?

A few weeks back I was at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco having a conversation with a good friend and an executive from a very large top organization in the Bay Area. We were talking about managing projects and how lean-agile can better things up. At some point the executive said, "A good manager is the one who gets things done!" That statement sounds great, right? Nonetheless, i counter-argued saying, "I think that a good manager is the on e who gets things done with minimal or no collateral damage." He looked at me intently... smiled... and continued on with the conversation. The next day I got an email from a recruiter from that company.

Then last week I was at a gathering in which a question shown on a slide and we were asked to discuss answers to it. The question was "you are asked to reduce the burn rate of the HR department by 10%, what do you do?" I was sitting at a round table with five other people to do this. One person, who happens to be a senior project manager, I learned later, was arguing that we should go about doing a round of lay offs. Almost everybody at the table started then talking about what the criteria should be to let people go. I was quietly listening to the conversation, amazed of how easily they were willing to get rid of the most valuable asset on every enterprise. Finally, I argued that we could focus on first understanding why the need for reduction, which can help on the decision making process, and also have a closer look at the processes to identify areas of improvement, which would lead to cost reduction potentially beyond 10%. In the end my proposal was the answer we presented.

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