I heard a great new term from a colleague of mine today. We were talking about the inability of some managers to effectively communicate with staff and he said that to him this was the primary source of organizational ‘turbulence.’ Let me clarify a bit. The types of miscommunication we are discussing here typically refer to either a manager who does not reveal his or her organizational goals to those who are supposed to operationalize them, or more often, someone who changes direction mid-stream, but does not inform others of the change. In many circumstances, this type of person is invaluable when it comes to the origination of a project or goal because he or she is able to take a very broad look at all of the possibilities and ask a wide range of key questions. Most often, these individuals are considered visionary at the start of a project because they are able to see all of the possibilities before settling on a single direction. However, the ‘turbulence’ factor comes into play after a plan has been developed, articulated, and put into action and staff are working toward its objectives. Then, the manager, seeing all of the options, decides that there is a better (more interesting?) way of going about things. Unfortunately, this information is not then communicated to others already well down the path toward the original goals until and unless the discord between the original direction and the ‘new’ path becomes apparent. The end result of this of course is that a great deal of work is unnecessarily wasted, and if this pattern repeats itself too may times, the manager becomes untrustworthy to staff who are now hesitant to follow any directions from him/her for fear that in just a short while things will change.
This ‘turbulence’ problem appears often to be directly related to an affliction similar to the ‘Peter Principle.’ (the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.” It was formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hul) I would call it the ‘Technocrat Principle.’ In short, this principle states that organizations who hire and promote from within tend to promote their most gifted technicians to positions of authority. It is an unfortunate circumstance that in many cases, people who are excellent at technical jobs (particularly in the IT world) are not effective leaders and have often had no experience or training in good management techniques. This leads to the corollary that those who are promoted to management via this process frequently do not become managers, but instead, highly-paid technicians with a management title. In essence they keep their former positions, conducting business as always, while having management responsibilities for which they are ill-prepared thrust upon them.
So what of these difficulties? How can they be resolved? Quite simply put, organizations must begin to more readily recognize the differences in skill sets, training, and dare I say, personality that form good leaders as opposed to excellent technical staff. One can be an extraordinarily good leader without ever actually fully understanding the technical aspects of the positions he/she is supervising. What is critical is that the leader is an individual who is skilled at identifying resource needs, roadblocks, barriers, and ultimate objectives and be able to work successfully with staff to ensure that they receive all of the required resources and to remove any barriers to achieving the organizational targets. In a time of economic downturn such as we are in currently, this type of person, sadly, tends to be less valued because their efforts are not seen as equally productive to a ‘working manager,’ but let me assure you, the cost of having ineffective leadership is far greater than the gain made from the additional technical output of a manager who is consistently creating barriers due to his/her ineffectiveness.