All facets of managing people must be re-thought with a broader mix of workers. All jobs no longer must be performed in exactly the same way, at the same time, or even in the same location. Managers cannot allow themselves to be constrained by the past, but instead they must approach management to from an entirely new perspective — with an entirely new workforce, according to small business opportunity data site Launchscore.
The old adage suggested all employees should be treated exactly the same way. The new adage suggests all employees should be treated fairly — meeting their individual needs. To achieve this, managers must be more flexible.
A key component of managing employees is providing appropriate rewards. Recognizing the uniqueness of each employee is of the utmost importance in rewarding employees The days of “one size fits all” rewards are gone. What pushes the buttons of one employee will not work for another. It requires flexibility to view each employee as the individual he or she is. The challenge for each manager, then, is to tailor individual rewards for each employee.
The better the match between the reward and the employee, the more effective it will be in motivating the employee.
James Kouzes and Barry Posner, the authors of Encouraging the Heart, send the message that what has traditionally been referred to as the “soft stuff” of managing is actually the “hard stuff.” And this soft stuff is what makes a difference and motivates employees to higher levels of performance.
Kouzes and Posner provide 150 ways for managers to encourage the heart. They caution, however, that “imagination is the only limit” when devising new ways to encourage the heart. The flexible, agile manager will be more comfortable (and successful) in achieving this.
Flexibility is needed to actually implement many of the suggestions Kouzes and Posner make for recognizing others. All managers must put their own spin on the suggestions. Bottom line, it requires that managers respond to a changing workforce and develop new ways of managing that reflect the challenges of this new environment.
Planning helps managers to face the challenges posed by a constantly changing world. Uncertainties are better managed with a systematic approach to planning which then can lead to higher organizational performance levels. This planning helps to more effectively position the company for the future.
Planning is now more long-term than ever before. Many organizations today routinely plan more than ten or twenty years into the future. Planning is no longer a rigid five-year process producing a plan that sits in a drawer. Strategic planning has been totally revised and revamped. There are fewer annual off-site planning meetings to be attended by only members of the top management team. They no longer develop the fifth year’s plan and lob off the last year’s to keep a rolling five-year plan.
Now this strategic planning process produces a living document that requires constant revisions and updates. “Flexible planning” may seem to be an oxymoron to some, but is in actuality today’s mandate. Planning is now a dynamic process. It requires back doors and contingency plans. Flexibility is built into the plan with incrementalism. These small steps enable the organization to make the necessary adjustments as the need arises.
Strategy itself has become more flexible. The key is to monitor the external environment then respond by making the appropriate changes to take advantage of opportunities identified in the scanning and monitoring of the external environment. This planning requires scanning the environment. It means not just watching the industry and immediate competition. Most major changes come from outside the industry.
The entire approach to planning today requires more flexibility and an open mind. It often requires letting go of the traditional approach to doing business and embracing a new concept or way of doing things.
In addition to keeping up in the functional area, each flexible manager must keep up with technological advancements in general. These advancements include communication technology and computers. Both of these have become integral to the performance of most jobs today.
Technology is changing the way work is completed. Technological advances are coming faster than ever — and are being adopted faster than ever. To keep up, managers cannot be wed to the past technologies. Instead, they must be flexible enough to seek out and adopt new technologies. This involves moving beyond the traditional industry boundaries as well. History has proven that most technological advances that truly change the nature of an industry generally come from outside that industry.
Knowledge needs increase as technology advances occur and vice versa. It is critical, however, that managers know how to apply this technology and the knowledge to the organization. But most importantly, these must both be applied in new ways.
Flexible managers must be comfortable navigating the waters of organizational politics. Above all, this requires managers have good interpersonal skills. With all managers requiring resources from other managers who are just as pressed as they are, astute political behavior has become even more critical.
Personal power has become more important than the power derived from the actual position. The two personal power bases are expert power and referent power. Expert power is based on the acquisition of knowledge that is needed in the organization. This requires that managers be flexible and vigilant to continuously identify the new knowledge and information that should be acquired.
Referent power can be equated to personal “likeability.” A manager has referent power over others when these other people want to emulate the manager and want to be like that manager. Anyone can build referent power with strong interpersonal skills.
Flexibility, however, is needed to shift away from an over-reliance on position power. This is based on the manager’s legitimate position in the organization, reward power and coercive power. Getting things do e today is more a function of personal power than position/power. With the organizational shifts toward more fluid structures and teams, position power has become less important and the significance of personal power as the means of getting things done has grown.
The rational decision making model is only effective in some situations. Managers, however, must be flexible enough to recognize when this model is appropriate and when it is not. More problems today require creative problem solving in order to generate new solutions to the old problems.
Agile managers today must think out of the box. And they must build a culture in their organizations that support creative approaches to problem solving. Creativity and innovation are critical to organizations today. Creativity involves producing new ideas. Innovation involves operationalizing these new concepts/ideas. Flexibility is a critical component of a creative environment required to foster creativity and innovation in any organization.
“Do More with Less”
Flexibility on all organizational levels many times may enable managers to be able to do more with less. And this is the creed of today’s businesses as the organizational pyramid is flattened and all employees are asked to wear several different hats and learn more tasks. It is no longer sufficient to know just one job and be able to perform that job in one way. Today’s business environment requires that everyone — especially managers — be multi-skilled and agile.
Just as active inertia, negatively impacts a business, the same can occur with individuals within these businesses. To continue to do things the way that they were always done (without any changes) dooms an organization to failure (as well as individuals). It has become a critical skill for managers today to be flexible, agile and responsive to their changing world. An agile manager is ready to meet the challenges of today’s world — and to succeed.