'Management is slowly moving
from seeking power
to empowering others,
from controlling people
to enabling them to be creative.'

Perry Pascarella
In The New Achievers (The Free Press)

Stop bossing:
the fast-changing world of management


USINESS management is a practice in metamorphosis. The changes aren't superficial. They're drastic. Concepts that once held sway have been consigned to the scrap heap; theories dear to the hearts of traditional managers in pyramidal organisations have been tossed out the window.

As we move into the age of imagination:

  • competition in the marketplace is fiercer than ever;
  • companies are under increasing pressure to launch new products or services at an unprecedented rate;
  • a lack of innovative product or service ideas is stifling sales;
  • the ceaseless launch of new, 'improved' products confuses consumers, and
  • management is under constant pressure to cut costs.

So harassed boardroom barons, living in stress danger zones, fire floor sweepers and sales assistants.


Old-order managers

Because for old-order managers, productivity remains 'it'. In a state bordering on panic, they increase manufacturing efficiency to churn out more products at lower per unit cost. Then they stuff what comes off the production line into warehouses already bulging with unsold products. Next, these executive suite occupants go cap in hand to their bank managers to borrow money at killer interest rates so they can turn out more products that don't sell.

And, as I said, they axe the floor sweeper and sales assistant in a bid to prune overheads.

Something has to be wrong.

Something iis wrong.

Those who guide the destiny of our private sector economy are still living in the steam age, where a stern downward look from a dizzy executive height kept terrified workers in line.

If you're
obsessed with
penetration goals,
and cost-cutting
exercises, you're
on the way out. They're
not compatible
with either quality
or customer service

Times have changed. Radically.

I've already pointed out that leaders of commerce and industry who want to continue leading beyond the year 2000 will have to destroy outmoded corporate structures. Then  they'll have to rebuild them from scratch to take on a streamlined 'new look' profile. This will mean breaking down multi-faceted companies into key or core processes and then appointing self-managed project teams to run them.

How does this effect you?

Lower your sights

If you're a member of the upper executive class, you'll have to lower your sights. You'll have to learn to manage across rather than up and down. You'll have to prepare yourself to challenge convention, take risks and trash the accepted rules of business management.

Traditional managers get their way by issuing orders. And if that doesn't work, they resort to fear. You've probably encountered the scenario:
'I'm the boss. If you don't do what I want, when I want you do it and how I want you to do it, you're fired!'

This approach no longer works. It's obsolete. Executive suite autocracy is giving way to factory floor democracy.

Consider this allegedly true cameo ...

The bottleneck trauma

In the Cape, the feared general manager of a large manufacturing group always insisted that he knew more about the application of high-tech methods than the experts he employed. He refused to accept their recommendations without making numerous trivial changes. Soon production began to lag.

Prodded by the board to speed up operations, the general manager summoned his staff to a meeting and berated them for not streamlining production procedures.

'Bottlenecks are seriously impairing output. I demand that you get rid of them. Any comments?'

A nerdy-looking boffin timidly raised his hand.

'S-s-ir,' he stammered, 'in the course of my extensive experience with bottles, I've observed that the necks are always at the top.'

He wasn't wrong.

Yet those who have scaled the corporate heights and those who are still clambering up tend to refute the benefits to be derived from flat corporate architecture. While they're
all for re-engineering, retrenching, downsizing, and restructuring, they believe that the processes should be confined to those at the bottom. An instinct for self-preservation means they'll stave off drastic re-engineering of top corporate echelons for as long as possible.

Cut-throat competition

But as I warned in my book, Look Out. A survival guide to the international business onslaughts (William Waterman Publications), many local companies will perish in the face of cut-throat competition from offshore invaders. That's because the mandarins of local industry remain cloistered behind defensive rings of secretaries and assistants in our vertically structured corporations.

Employees in these outmoded structures continue to pay homage to those at the top instead of looking out towards their customers. Corporate lackeys continue to worship at the altar of functional corporate fiefdoms. Decision-making, dragged laboriously through multiple tiers of management, remains slow.

According to popular business author, Vance Packard, probably best known for The Hidden Persuaders: 'Leadership appears to be the art of getting others to want to do something you are convinced should be done.'

manager must
be results-orientated,


Buck passing
up and down
the corporate heights
remains the name of the game.     

There's a hoary maxim that proclaims: 'Leaders are born, not made.'

Economist and psychologist Warren Bennis disagrees. He spent years studying a group of 150 acknowledged corporate leaders in the United States. He verdict: 


So kick your old
management habits ...
Become a Leader.

This is how Bennis distinguished between leaders and managers: 'Leaders are people who do the right things. Managers are people who do things right.

'You don't learn leadership in business schools. You learn management.'

I agree. Wholeheartedly.

So shed your manager's hat and ...


To run your own show whatever your position in the company, become a business leader by following these five steps:

  1. Create a visionary plan.
  2. Replicate and share your vision.
  3. Set key objectives.
  4. Recruit the right people.
  5. Develop a positive attitude.


Before you can lead, you have to know where you're going. So you have to develop a guiding vision. You can only do this by defining exactly what you want to achieve.

As multimillionaire real estate tycoon and tough guy movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger puts it: "It's all in the mind.'

Five times winner of the Mr Universe Contest, Schwarzenegger can still recall those near-penniless days when all he had was a vision of the future. A vivid vision.

When, like the movie star, you create a vision of where you want to go, you create a sense of purpose. This is all- important. Without a sense of purpose you won't see the potential in the marketplace. You won't see the opportunities that the marketplace provides.

When you
work towards a
precisely defined
target, you work
smarter and more

American business consultant Charlotte Taylor, president of Washington-based Venture Concepts, calls the process 'visionary planning'. She says that it isn't about predicting the future. It about creating the future by taking action.

In essence, a vision is the difference between short-term tactics to improve your bottom line by, for example, selling surplus assets and pruning overheads and long-term strategic change. A vision translates your strategies into a way of business life. It helps you empower others to change.

The ingredients

The ingredients of visionary planning include:
  • a clear vision of where you want to go despite fluctuations in the economic climate;
  • the ability to maintain focus despite increasingly fierce marketplace competition, and
  • the courage to take risks when the going gets tough.

The sense
of purpose
projected by your
vision will guide you
steadfastly towards
a profitable
marketplace niche

Taylor defines visionary planning as 'the owner's vision of the company as it relates to the changing marketplace to drive future product and market priorities'.

To create such a vision, you require analytical skills. And possibly more importantly, you require intuition. Yet traditional management skills emphasise only analysis.

paints a
picture of where
you want your
company to go
and what you
want it to be.

While you need to analyse the marketplace situation now, you need intuition to peer into the marketplace five or 10 years down the line. You then need to use the perceived trends as a guide when you draw up your strategic plans.

In a nutshell, visionary planning gives you the ability to see a need in the market place, and take the action to meet it.

Business consultants Francis Guillart and James Kelly point out that while creating a vision is more art than science, it provides a 'mental framework that gives form to the future' ... it enables you to develop strategic intent, a picture of where you want to go. 'It forces you to banish limits on what you think you can accomplish.'

So if ...

  • your plans are driven by last year's budget;
  • you design your plans to meet set financial con-straits or strategies geared to generate money;
  • you're the only one in the company with a clear idea of the company's true objectives;
  • you cling to the past for security, or
  • you're unwilling to face the challenges of marketplace place change ...  
you're allowing traditional planning based on the past to lead your company into the future.

And that's bad news in a market where the only constant is change.

So sharpen up your visionary planning skills by:

  • finding a quiet place to dream strategically about your company's future;
  • allowing customer needs to guide the development of your strategic vision rather than production or operational considerations;
  • translating your strategic vision into a corporate mission statement to unify company thinking.


Unlock your creative potential

Creativity, say psychologists, isn't restricted to writers and artists and people with the IQ of Albert Einstein. But to unlock you creative potential requires rethinking the way you think.

Success depends on defying conformity.

Conformity creates a sense of order and offers the reassurance of the familiar, say specialist writers Lesley Dorman and Peter Ediden.

There's a
component to
visionary planning.
It comes in the guise
of creativity.

To free your natural creative impulses, it's necessary to resist the social pressures that demand that you march in step with the world.

Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University says that rigid, automatic thinking leads to 'mindlessness'. But what she calls 'mindfulness'  -  creative thinking  -  'is seeing the novel in the familiar. It turns stumbling blocks to productivity into building blocks'.

Ruth Richards, a psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Michigan, suggests that you start by thinking about improving what exists.

depends on

'Virtually nothing you can do can't be done in a slightly different, slightly better way. This has nothing to do with so-called creative pursuits but simply with breaking with your own mindsets and trying an original way of doing some task.'

Practical visions

Practical visions are born from an intensity of preoccupation ... from being drawn into your activity to such an extent that your forget it's dinner time. So says psychologist Vera John-Steiner.

Don't expect
visions that you
can transform
into reality  to
come to you in a flash.

Some psychologists, who have devoted most of their professional lives to studying the subject, believe that you have to immerse yourself in your area of special interest before you're ready to make a significant move. They cite Einstein as an example.

Popular myth suggests that he quickly doodled out his theory of relativity at the age of 26.

He didn't.

He'd been obsessed with the problem since the age of 16.


People with entrepreneurial flair generate a lot of ideas. Many of them  -  most of them  -  are way off base. Historians point out that even geniuses like Thomas Edison made a load of mistakes. He, in fact, patented more than 1 000 inventions. Most of them weren't worth the effort.

important to
remember that not
all visions strike
gold. Take risks,
make mistakes,
get things

But how do you get it right?
  • By persevering, often against the odds.
  • By rejecting conventional wisdom  -  by thinking  differently.
  • By personally committing themselves to achieving their visions.

Such international business giants as IBM, Kellogg and Rank Xerox were fading forces in the world market. Then they saw the light. They envisioned a bright future and they unleashed the formidable power of their people to achieve it.


There's nothing more useless than a vision  -  no matter how brilliant the concept  -  if you can't replicate it and share it. I've already suggested one method: translate it into your corporate mission statement.

There are others.

Constantly sell your ideas to the people who matter: your boss, shareholders, partners and employees. As Bennis points out: 'The effectiveness of a decision is the quality of that decision multiplied by the acceptance of it.'

It isn't always easy.

aren't fazed by
failure. They just
keep going until
they get it right.

 'Those who can free themselves of mindsets,' says Langer, 'open themselves to new information and surprise, play with perception and context, and focus on process rather than outcome.'   

Constantly communicate your vision so that you, your employees and your suppliers pull in the same direction.

You'll know your communications have succeeded when all your employees and suppliers have a clear idea of:

  • where you want your company go;
  • how you plan to get it there, and
  • when you want it to get there.


Limit yourself to key objectives or goals. Don't dissipate the strength of attack by firing at too many targets. Instead, concentrate your firepower on the goals that matter.

Patanjali, the Indian founder of yoga put it more eloquently: 'When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extra-ordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than ever you dreamed yourself to be.'

vision should
express optimism.
In visionary
planning, there's
no place for

So become ...


Most people resist change.
To get them to accept something,
you have to alter their mindset.

Speaking bluntly, if you don't set objectives or goals and develop a step-by-step strategy to achieve them, your visionary plans are going to remain just visions.

Psychology research workers at New York University, analysed 100 studies of worker productivity. They found that setting realistic goals was far more effective in raising the quality and quantity of work than pay incentives.

But the goals you set must be tangible. They must be realistic. There no more effective way of dampening enthusiasm than goals that are unattainable. But don't make them too easy to achieve.

Psychological research worker Edwin Locke suggests that you place your goals just beyond reach. After studying goal setting psychology for more than 25 years, he says you have to be convinced that achieving your goals is a worthwhile exercise.

Too often we don't ask enough from people. 

General Norman Schwarzkopf, in overall command of Allied Forces during the Gulf War, was once given the responsibility for helicopters maintenance. He recalls asking how many whirly-birds in the fleet were capable of being airborne on any given day.

The answer: 75%.

'People, he says, 'didn't come in at 74 or 76, but at 75 because that was the standard that had been set for them. I said: "I don't know anything about helicopter maintenance, but I'm establishing a new standard: 85%." Sure enough, within a short time, 85% of the fleet was available on any given day.

'The moral: people generally won't perform above your expectations, so it's important to expect a lot.'

While achieving your objectives may be critical to the success  - even the survival  -  of your business, the blind pursuit of a single goal can detrimentally effect the quality of your achievement or even prevent you from attaining it.

You want to be goal-guided rather than goal-governed. The initial course you plotted to arrive at your objective may not turn out to be the best or most productive route. So be flexible. Give yourself the leeway to change course in midstream if necessary.

This is important: you goals must be clear.

'And you must be able to articulate them clearly,' says General Schwarzkop.

'One of the advantages we had in Kuwait was the clarity of the mission: kick Saddam Hussein's butt out of Kuwait. The goal was clear and simple, and something that every one of our troops understood.'


Tighten up your company's personnel recruitment procedures. In many cases these are sloppy and haphazard. Few companies bother to check references thoroughly.

Look beyond qualifications to talent and ability in the real world. An independent mind in the revolutionary new business environment is a quality that could be worth it weight in gold. Hiring 'yes men' or clones of yourself could be a recruiting recipe for disaster.

This is how legendary adman David Ogilvy sees the situation: 'Success in running an agency [or any business] depends on your ability to hire men and women of exceptional talent, to train them thoroughly, and to make the most of their talents.'

Ogilvy confides that he sent a Russian Matroshka doll from Gorky to each agency person appointed to senior executive positions.

'If he has the curiosity to open it, and keep opening until he comes to the inside of the smallest doll, he finds this message: "If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants".'

Lay out the concept, but let your people execute it.



A positive attitude coupled to great expectations creates the power of optimism.

And it breeds success.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania compared the performance records of rookie life assurance sales people after they had spent two years in the field. Those who saw 'glasses half full' sold 37% more policies than those who habitually saw glasses as 'half empty'.

Your business, whatever it is,
isn't just a collection
of material assets.
It's also the of the contact
your staff have
with your customers and suppliers. 

Based on these findings, a Virginia-based consultancy, Foresight Inc, developed a programme, which it called Metropolitan Optimism Sales Training (MOST).

Metropolitan Life Assurance company implemented the programme in 1988. Management felt that because life assurance sales representatives made a lot of cold calls, they needed to be shown how to deal with the ever-present threat of rejection.

Richard Calegro, the assurance company's director of planning and human resources' research, said the programme's focus on training in optimism gave the sales force 'a sort of immunity to all the turndowns'.

To cultivate a positive attitude, play the game to win but:

  • don't blame yourself for failures;
  • remember that mistakes only cause temporary inconvenience, and
  • don't be shy about taking credit for successes  -   think of them of lasting achievements that will pay off in the long run.
British laconic wit Oscar Wilde said: 'The basis of optimism is sheer terror.'

According to Dr Laurence Peter, of The Peter Principle fame, this means: 'An optimist expects his dreams to come true; a pessimist expects his nightmares to.'

Have the right
people in place.
Then step back.
Allow them to
own their work.

Autocracy vs democracy

As the world of business orbits from the heavily structured world of top-down management into the chaotic era of leadership that depends more on intellectual property than anything else, boardroom debates rage around the merits of autocracy, preferred by the 'old guard', and workplace democracy, which they view with contempt.

They may have a point, particularly when production methods are highly labour-intensive and the quality of labour is poor.    

The big question you face is ...


Directive leaders tell their subordinates exactly what to do. They also insist that members meet certain predetermined standards, and they ensure that everyone knows who is the boss.

Non-directive leaders, on the other hand, consult their employees, ask them for their opinions and request that they participate in planning and decision-making processes.

Most employees prefer the participative approach that invites their input. Modern management gurus, like Tom Peters, claim that the directive approach  -  giving orders  -  demotivates workers and leads to poor productivity. Whether to be directive or non-directive depends on the specific situation.

In certain circumstances,
'directive leadership'
is more advantageous
than 'non-directive
or participative leadership'.

For example, you can't run a self-managed project team in an autocratic manner unless the members are 'yes men'. However, the operation of an assembly line doesn't invite participative management techniques. In this type of situation, it's definitely a case of 'Do what I say'.

But then labour-intensive production methods that revolve around assembly lines are destined to become history in an age in which 'imagination' will become the business buzzword.

Unfortunately we in South Africa continue to lag behind management trends in the so-called developed world. We continue to prune staff levels to cut costs ... to become leaner and meaner. So far, the only perceptible results are  longer unemployment queues and customer service that grows steadily more appalling.

South African companies, for years cocooned by a protective government, remain sluggish. They remain unable to manoeuvre fast enough to meet quickly changing market demands.


Before going on, let's recap.

As an employed or self-employed entrepreneur, you must possess a compendium of qualities. High on the list of 'musts' are:

  • ambition;
  • drive;
  • competence, and
  • expertise.

When you own what you do ... when you've built your own perfect little turnkey operation, either for yourself or the company that employs you, you'll spend a lot of time thinking about missions and visions. And about the strategies that breathe life into them.

When you think like a manager, you think about doing things right; about implementing more control mechanisms and making them ever tighter.

As an old-style manager, you think about how to.

When you think like an entrepreneur or intrapreneur who leads, you think about what and why.

Many companies have bitten the dust and others have survived only after great traumas because they were over-managed and under-led.  General Motors, IBM, OK Bazaars and Checkers are a few examples of the survivors that saw the light in the nick of time.

Your duty in the
new business order
is to create an
environment that
intellectual capital;
that releases
the brain power
of the people you lead.

I've shown you the writing on the wall.

Now it's up to you.
Previous   Next

  Authors Note
    Introduction: Prepare Yourself for the New Business Order
1. The Evolution of Change
2. Give your Company a 'New Look' Profile
3. Run Your Own Show
4. Lead, Don't Manage
5. Cross Train Yourself
6. Become a Self-Contained Profit Centre
7. Think Network
8. Benchmark Yourself
9._ Have Heart
  Return to FunZone!