a) Successful change agent
One of the most important attribute of a leader is being a change agent – improve process or improve products or design or inspire people.
The skills of a successful change agent according to Insight Outsight, 2007 include:
Ability to identify key issues
An understanding of the product and process
Problem solving abilities and ability for out of the box thinking
Challenging existing paradigms
Ability to exercise influence even in areas where there is little or no formal authority
Remain effective even then things are difficult
The most important attribute of a change agent is to see beyond the present. A bent of mind to seek new ways and explore unknown territories; stems more by challenging the existing framework.
Change can be in the areas like in an improvement of a company culture, or a product, or process or even finding new customer base or new usages of a product at an organizational level.
The chief competencies of a “change agent” would include: flexibility in responding to a situation, tolerance to ambiguity, communication skills, enthusiasm, inspiring motivation in others, and influence among others. Most important is the commitment and drive for continuous improvements and a mindset that sees possibilities.
Managers don’t necessarily make for good change agents. They are driven by processes and procedures and expected to deliver results. There is a little incentive and leverage for major change. They can however deliver incremental changes to the system in managing the day to day functions.
Change Agents may or may not make better managers; managing is a skill that can be imbibed but not an innovative mind. Change agents like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates who defined an entire industry were good managers too.
b) Good and bad aspect of bureaucracy
According to Weber defined bureaucracy as one that is driven by goals with emphasis on written rules of conduct and standardized procedures. According to Ludwig (2004) the jobs are described as fine detail and so is well defined hierarchy with a long chain of command. The transactions are guided by rules and procedures and recorded in writing. This form of organization is prevalent in governmental departments that are guided by policies and strict conformity to procedures.
Good Aspect would include uniformity and continuance. There is a set system in place; the forms to be filled and expected time intervals of processing etc. There is a long chain of command and there is a window for addressal of grievance. There is an impersonal feature to bureaucracies; a great deal of paperwork often lengthy and frustrating, but it gives everyone an equal treatment and fair access. As an employer bureaucracies often give job stability as they more isolated from market conditions. Besides randomness or whimsical handling of an issue is greatly reduced in bureaucratic setups; the very essence of bureaucracy is to reduce arbitrariness and fair justice to all.
But the bad aspect stems more from practice according to Cliffnotes, 2011. Bureaucracy makes for inflexible work environment especially in a fast changing world. Departments create their own goals and pursue them even at the cost of the organization’s objective. Following procedures and rules at all costs stifle creativity and innovation rather they lead to a high degree of formalization. There is penchant for maintaining the status-quo; they lead to rigidity and inflexibility even in cases of emergencies. The management is risk averse and it calls for obedience. All of this in practice make for corruption and inefficiencies.
Bureaucracies in general follow the Parkinson’s law of work creates as much work to fill the time for its completion. This usually accounts for insistence on more paper work, more evaluations, more forms, more meetings etc. Peter’s law states that people are promoted to their level of incompetence. So at any point in time we have incompetent personnel dealing on the matter and only next level capable of taking a decision.
c) Communications in a virtual environment
In the last decade there has been a proliferation of online media for communications. From the humble email in the late nineties, now the spectrum envisages twitter, facebook, video blogs, chat, blogs, websites etc. The communication just exploded all around us defining one’s social circle. It is no longer restricted to one’s neighbourhood or office but extend to anyone around the globe given the increasingly virtual and wired we are getting to be.
Though whatever be the medium – real or virtual – the principles of communication remain the same. The seven Cs are communications find validity in equal measure: Completeness, Conciseness, Consideration, Clarity, Concreteness, Courtesy, and Correctness. The purpose of communication is to foster an environment in which effective transactions can take place.
The three most important considerations for any manager according to Smith, 2011 in interactions with his employees in the virtual medium are:
a) Absolute clarity in written skills and etiquette: Since written word is mainly the method of communication there is no reality no margin for error. This calls for good language skills and crystal clear instructions.
b) Ability to interpret messages correctly to avoid misunderstandings: If the nature of work demands a lot of work codes or jargons, it is important that all the members are cued on without any room for misinterpretation.
c) Acknowledgment: Team members must indicate their understandings by simple reaffirmation on the dates of deadlines or scope of work. The manager must insist on their written communications.
It is very important that the manager and the team in different locations spend their time meaningfully in their online interactions lest it become routine or ineffectual. Virtual media unlike real face-to-face suffers the drawback of a human touch and does not bend to gossip or idle conversations. If the team works together for a long time, it is not a bad idea for a get together under one roof. The names would come in blood and bones and it makes everything human.
d) Job description
According to American University of Beirut job analysis is a systematic process of collating information on the demands (functionability) of a job. This is akin to looking at a task and the various skills that are needed in performing them. This is an essential tool for a human resources manager to determine competency demands of a task and the quality of human resources required. Job analysis include the time it takes to task completion, nature of interactions with others, employee behavioural pattern needed, traits of a proper candidate both in terms of soft as well hard skills.
The “job analysis” that results in formulation of a “job description” helps in identifying the training needs, recruitment strategies and performance reviews. It is essential especially in an environment where organizations have to competitive and be able to retain talent.
My job description at a magazine at the start of the tenure was:
a) Editing articles of freelance writers in terms of style format of the magazine
b) Source books on a monthly basis for a “book review”.
c) Interact with freelancers to ensure adherence of deadlines.
d) Source a book on a management genre for a book condensation of 6,000 words for each issue of the magazine
e) Assist in providing contents for magazine promotions in online channels – facebook, twitter and website.
In practice it actually led me to contribute two original articles for the magazine. Since it was not part of the job description it led to disagreements on compensation – doing more than what was previously agreed to. Since there was no hike in emoluments I left the service of company I enjoyed working otherwise. Job descriptions can have such an impact!!!
f) Topic for a final paper
For a topic for a final paper my choice would be,” The different leadership styles of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs”.
According to Dey both Gates and Jobs are iconic business leaders of our age; both in an emerging (at least then!!) industry that has gone to eclipse almost every business segment. Both saw huge potential in the information technology domain and it is vision and genius that has spawned the industry – a sphere that has revolutionized the way business is done and even invaded our social sphere.
Both were college dropouts but their leadership styles differ.
It would be interesting to study the origin and how their organization grew: Microsoft and Apple both are iconic brands but they cater to different segments. It would also be interesting to talk to former employees or close associates on how each one acted to pressure or ability to spot a business opportunity.
There are so many lessons embedded that a proper study of these two men can elaborate on. They worked on the strength on their own beliefs and talents and it is their dreams that these companies embody.
Change Agent Skills. Insight Outsight [online]. Retrieved from https://www.insightoutsight.com.au/io/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=50&Itemid=46
Thevsen, Ludwig (2004). On Good and Bad Bureaucracies: Designing Effective Quality
Management Systems in the Agrofood Sector. Retrieved from http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/24993/1/sp04th01.pdf
Pros and Cons of Bureaucracy: Cliffsnotes [online].
Smith, Erica (2011). Chicago Business Shorts and Becoming a “Great Communicator. Retrieved from http://www.virtualoffice.com/blog/management/chicago-business-shorts-and-becoming-a-%E2%80%9Cgreat-communicator-%E2%80%9D/
Cascio, Wayne (2000). Managing a virtual workplace. Retrieved from http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/hrosenba/www/l574/pdf/cascio_virtual-workplace.pdf
Job Analysis and Description: Retrieved from http://www.aub.edu.lb/hr/compensation/Documents/job_analysis_description.pdf
Dey, D. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/13075547/How-Did-Bill-Gates-and-Steve-Jobs-Differ-in-Their-Leadership-Style