Managing is about making decisions. Some decisions are big and some are small. Some decisions are made on your own and some with others. Some have consequences for profitability and others make employees unhappy. Some decisions affect customer relations and others are inconsistent with organisational values. The list is never-ending and the complexity increases as one moves up the corporate ladder.
But how do we prepare managers for making these decisions? Can we assume their prior job experience has provided them with adequate preparation?
These are scenarios that many of us can relate to: An excellent young engineer catches the eye of the boss because she is so good at assessing and pricing building structures. She becomes the team leader where she has to make good engineering decisions, as well as appoint the right tasks to the right people. But she is an engineer and wants to build bridges, not manage people!
The best math teacher becomes head of the math department and eventually sits in the school office meeting worried parents, supervising other teachers, drawing up budgets, chairing meetings – while he would rather introduce young minds to the wonders of numbers….
In order to earn enough to pay for her kids’ extra tuition, a bank official has to be promoted and the only way up is to become a manager – but she loves drawing up contracts, not deciding when her team members should have leave.
Management training consists of all sorts of inductions, shadowing, on the job training and formal classroom training. But these are not the same as the real thing! Stepping into the job, making all these decisions, big and small, in unknown (managerial) fields about finances, products, services, people, shareholders and stakeholders is daunting. There is little in their specialised earlier careers to prepare the engineer, math teacher and bank official for the tough role of manager.
Learning management decision-making skills in a ‘more real’ environment than the lecture room is not a future development. The space – where incumbents ‘make’ management decisions and experience the impact of these decisions without the damaging real life consequences – is here. It is now up to companies and organisations to realise the necessity of management training that develops managers into expert decision makers.