Unexpectedly Intriguing!
October 24, 2006

Management is the art of getting things done through other people. To be a good manager, you need to be capable of responding to a wide range of issues with the right mix of people and technical skills in time enough to get things right.

Getting it right means that you've successfully balanced your available resources with the work that must be done, in the time that it must be done, while satisfying the goals of the organization.

Then, there are those times where management fails. Somewhere, somehow, something didn't happen that needed to happen and it's not because of something that could not be foreseen or that would be impossible to accomplish with your available resources. You knew about it, you could have taken steps to deal with it, and you didn't.

How you deal with this situation will not just make yor break you as a boss. How good a person you are will be tested too.

Your initial impulse may be to cover your mistake up and act like nothing's happened and hope that nothing comes of it. That is, obviously, WRONG. It's already too late, so don't even bother going down that road.

Your next impulse will be to do more management. A lot more. You'll redirect your people to directly overcome the immediate crisis. You'll enlist other managers and their people to help right the results of your oversight. You'll have meetings, make plans and contigency plans. You'll throw every resource you have into the effort, not just calling more people onto the task but also working long hours and spending whatever it takes to erase your mistake.

You've panicked. Clear and simple. And you've just done more damage than you likely did in your original oversight.

Here's what you've done by your act of management: You've disrupted your people and quite possible the people of other groups by redirecting them away from their regular tasks to cope with your emergency. Away from their regular tasks that are required to keep the business running smoothly. The tasks that other people and your customers are relying upon them to do.

This means that at some point, they will need to devote additional effort, beyond the usual level needed, just to recover to where they would be if you hadn't intervened. Many of them will be profoundly annoyed by this, but not because of having to do the work.

Instead, their irritation will be directed at you, because they know you could have acted proactively to address the situation that led to your management by panic. They've been there all along, they've seen things develop into the current crisis and now they resent the disruption to their work enviornment and their lives just to cover for your oversight or lack of action.

It's too much to ask and you shouldn't have. Many of your people will begin pursuing a new work environment, when they're really just looking to replace you. Other managers won't be inclined to go out of their way to support your career. Literally, doing nothing would have been better than doing what you've done.

If only you had considered it. If only you had offered to take full responsibility for the mistake by presenting "nothing" as one of options to consider in developing your elaborate recovery plans. If only you had presented that choice as an option for your staff and other members of your organization. That's where their hard effort could be won over to the task and and where truly earning their respect lay.

But, you had to "manage" your way through it. Because doing something is better than doing nothing. Because nothing else would make you the center of all the action and the hero in the story.

Your ego may have driven you to pursue the course you did. Funny that in the end, it really was all about you.

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