Martin P Wilson

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Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Insight, IT

Facilitation and Mentoring for Success.

Canadian War Memorial, Vimy Ridge, FranceThe role of project directors and other senior executive is to create an environment in which their teams can deliver. Management in knowledge based organisations should be more about liberating the capability of highly qualified staff than controlling the way in which they work.

Lessons from History and Sport

Executives should look at lessons from history and other fields. In World War 1 after the trench warfare of the Somme, Passchendaele and the resulting slaughter a new approach was needed. For the Second Battle of Arras in April 1917 the allies spent considerable time training the troops so they understood both the objectives and their role. Rather than simply treating the troops as cannon fodder, all ranks were trained to respond to changing circumstances. They were not dependent on centralised management and communications that broke down in battle. As a result gains were made after years of stalemate and it was the beginning of the end of the war.

It is not humanly possible to micromanage complex systems; the control inputs will always be too late. Markets and organisations are complex systems. It is rather like athletes. They cannot think their way through a golf swing, tennis serve or basketball jump shot. It has to be instinctive; sportsmen rely on hours of practice and “muscle memory” to produce the right result. The athlete prepares their mind by visualising what they want to achieve and then relaxes into the “zone” to let their body and subconscious mind produce the best result. So the executive should set the scene, then step aside and let the “organisational memory” get on with producing the desired outcome.

Directors should make sure all members of their teams know the overall objectives and their individual role. Once that is achieved the director then needs to removes distractions so teams and individuals can use their skills and knowledge to achieve the goals. At that point the leader needs to adopt a support role by protecting teams from “noise” from other stakeholders and removing blockages thrown up by outside factors. At this point a director could be said to become a “servant leader” whose role is to respond to calls for assistance from their teams rather than being directive or controlling.

Whilst an executive will always have a monitoring role it should be with as light a touch as possible. The aim must be to release all that expensive education and costly training to deliver the results. Not only does it produce better results it provides greater job satisfaction for everyone involved. Even more important it is the first step to liberating people to innovate and use their creativity to improve the way the organisation works; that is a Thought for another time.

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