I love Herb Kelleher. He gets it. Sometimes we just get too wrapped up in all that fancy planning, strategizing stuff. Sometimes, to quote Nike, we just need to do it.
Henry Mintzberg, in his book, Managing, suggests that management is the intersection of information, people and action. Most managers are really good at one of these three aspects of management, so we tend over-focus on that aspect of management.
I’m really good at the action aspect of management. Give me a task, deadline and budget and get out of my way. I face a couple of challenges with this ingrained behaviour. I have a tendency to dive in before having completed a thorough analysis of the situation, and while in perpetual action, I have a bad habit of ignoring the people in the equation. I’m getting better on the analysis bit (hanging around a university will do that to you), but I still have to work hard on the people thing.
Mintzberg suggests that we need to be aware of every situation in order to determine the best balance of a manager’s focus. And that we need to be able to switch from one focus to another if necessary. Too much emphasis on action can destroy morale. Or it can put emphasis on speed rather than doing the right analysis that suggests a better direction. Too much emphasis on people can result in inefficiency and ineffectiveness. Too much emphasis on analysis can lead to the dreaded analysis paralysis.
Creating and maintaining the appropriate balance between these three aspects of management in every situation is hard on most managers, as we tend to want to stay with behaviours that are familiar and comfortable. But to be high performing managers, we need to get the balance right. What is your preference — information, people or action? Which of these three do you need to work on the most? What can you do this week to be uncomfortable?
Mintzberg, Henry. (2009). Managing. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.