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By Market Intelligence Team

Friday, December 23, 2011

Recently OPEN MINDS CEO Monica E. Oss has discussed the recent Harvard Business Review piece by Dr. Gary Hamel, First, Let’s Fire All the Managers, in her briefing Should You “Eliminate” Your Managers? all members, — raising the question of whether staff can work without a manager if they are empowered and “make the mission the boss.”

I would like to add my proverbial “two cents” to this issue — specifically the issue of employee empowerment. I think that a fundamental responsibility of managers is to educate their team about the organizational mission and reinforce through day-to-day management the link between each team member’s role and the “big picture” mission of the organization. In my view, management and “making the mission the boss” are not opposites — they are one and the same.

Organizations in our field (even small ones) usually have complex structures with several clinical services and administrative departments. Shouldn’t we expect one important role of a manager to be maintaining an organization-wide “bigger picture” perspective? Isn’t that fundamental to assuring that team members are both engaged and performing in a way that fits with the overall organizational mission?

I think that managers need to help every individual in the organization see how their efforts contribute to the overall mission — to make sure everyone on the team is pulling in the same direction. But before you think that this should be pretty straight forward for every employee, think of the differences between a mental health counselor, a worker in a group home, and the person who processes payroll. While it’s often easier to do this on the clinical side of the organizations where clinical professionals have day-to-day contact with consumers, it’s not always easy for administrative personnel to see their role in helping the organization fulfill its mission. Ultimately, this managerial role is a very important form of quality control. By maintaining a connection between your employees and your strategic mission, your managers are driving responsibility for consistency and quality in your organization.

In my experience, the managers who are the best at this are the ones best able to manage and carefully control competing priorities. If you are going to make the mission the boss, someone has to make sure everyone has the same mission to begin with. And, this responsibility lies at the very top of every organization.

Dr. Hamel’s comment that, “in a bureaucracy managers are enforcers who ensure that employees follow rules” jumped out at me as really missing the leadership value of a manager. If enforcing rules is truly all the value we see in our managers, is this a critique on the role of management or an indictment of our current crop of managers?


Rejean Carlson
Executive Vice President, OPEN MINDS

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