Over the last 15 years I have had the very interesting job of providing leaders with information regarding the performance of their processes and organizations. I am always amazed by the findings and even more astonished by the reactions of leaders when you present the results. Their reactions vary from rapt interest and concern, to complete surprise and disdain for the revealed problems. The single most common statement to the output of a fact based assessment is: “I am not surprised.” They tell me they know what is happening; the issues and problems are known. So if the problems are known, why have they not been addressed? Initially there is no response to the question. Sometimes they say, they needed a confirmation regarding the size and the impacts of the problem. In essence they really did not know nor understand the issues. All too often, their focus is not on the management of operations, but on the world outside of it. To be sure the problem of uninformed leadership is complicated; the simple answer is that they don’t know what is going on because they are not leading and managing the changes necessary to insure success. Leadership is responsible for the strategy, goals and objectives of their organizations. The very nature of these leadership responsibilities portends that the organization must change to be successful. When leadership asks its managers how their areas are performing; they are told that everyone is hitting their numbers. This may very well be the situation, but are they monitoring the right numbers? If the leader is not monitoring, and managing the operational changes that are necessary to insure success, they cannot challenge and guide their managers. They need to be able to understand the operational plan, know what is supposed to happen, check the performance, and make sure adjustments are made when things are not going as planned.
To lead in today’s environment, requires leaders to be proactive in the management of the organization. Empowering subordinates and making them responsibility is critical. Assigning a team to manage large change efforts is often required, but leaders who are successful stay involved…they are visible and active in the process. They must provide focus and goals that are aligned through a collaborative style that drives change, accountability, and the performance of the organization. For an organization to be collaborative, focused and accountable, leaders must be involved in the day to day operations. Depending on the scope of a leader’s responsibility, 50 percent of their time should focus on running operations.
The more a leader focuses on the actual management and directing of operations, the more they understand and know why it performs the way it does. Not understanding how the various pieces interact, results in a leader who is uninformed as to why it acts and performs the way it does. Without this involvement, the leader becomes reactive and not a proactive force that insures success.
In conclusion, leaders must provide focus to the organization, and stay involved to keep it on track. Understanding what is happening, and how the organization really works, allows a leader make the right management decisions necessary to insure success, and eliminate the problem of “Why don’t they know?”