Moving Away from Command Management


Most often the private companies I advise are run by very talented and thoroughly capable owners. Although their work gets done somehow, unlike their counterparts in bigger organizations, many of these leaders have put themselves at the very crossroads of almost all that happens at work every day. As a small business consultant, I have come to refer to this very ubiquitous style as the command managed method.

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You might run a fine business but, could be missing out on all the benefits of owning your enterprise. Understanding your perspective on leading is a good place to begin. The prevalence of command management has its foundations in a historic lack of personal trust. It appears however, this lack of trust is founded in poor or luck-based hiring, impatient training, and informal or incomplete process clarity.

Informal operating methods generally result in across the board underperformance. These deficiencies usually force the boss to complete tasks that subordinates may be unable, or unwilling to complete. Going in tomorrow to do what you did yesterday is a vulnerability that can deplete enthusiasm and compromise your success. Break out of the pattern by adding a process improvement mandate to your culture.

In every business there are plenty of regularly repeated activities. Examining and memorializing the details required for an assembly process, an accounts payable function, or other assigned employee tasks has lots of important benefits, including greater efficiency and employee buy-in. Further, while recording the specifics of any activity, you are likely to find opportunities for process improvements while assuring greater accountability and more meaningful employee reviews.

Process improvement can be applied almost anywhere. Here are a few self-examination questions to ask yourself and your team to stimulate some quick solutions:
• Review or create a formal hiring process (or, ask for a copy of ours)
• Create or examine any training programs to assure the process is clear, meaningful and memorable
• Determine if your performance is consistent with customer expectations
• Audit all procedures for receivables, payables, payroll, order processing and inventory control. Make sure they are fully supportive of your operations
• When faced with problems that require the leader’s input, encourage employees to accompany the problem with suggested solutions

The way to a more Shared Leadership style allows for spreading responsibility out and down to the operating team. When employees know how their efforts contribute to the success of the business, they feel more engaged, are more willing to contribute, and are more connected to a winning team. With a greater connection to success, everyone’s effort, including the leader’s, is more about objective, and less on fixing redundant problems that the process improvement undertaking was made to address. Managers spend less time managing when job performance guidelines are specific.

Want more time to work on growing your company and less time fixing what you thought you fixed 6 weeks ago? Take it slow, undertake the process improvement challenge and begin creating an operating manual for your company. It will run smoother, take less emotional effort; you’ll make more money and the manual alone will mean hundreds of thousands of dollars more when you are ready to sell the company.