To hate something is often related to being afraid. Actually no managers are afraid of structures, but all are afraid of not delivering results. I have often struggled with the question why some managers do not want to apply structure and control. In my mind, I never understood why improved control could be a problem. Why would clear responsibilities, processes, checklist etc. be a risk to the business? We all want better result, right? If we ensure that people follow some procedures based on good practices it cannot be a bad thing, or can it?
But actually, it can be dangerous for an organization to apply structure and control. I do realize this now. It is dangerous for an organization, with the ad hoc cowboy approach, to change its behavior towards more structure and control. If you shoot hundreds of bullets towards a target, by the laws of probabilities, you will certainly hit, eventually. This means ad hoc management generates results.
Being responsible for an organization and its operations is to be accountable for the result and performance. Results are the first to be counted, second to be counted is performance. With no results, you are out as a manager. Good results with bad performance are acceptable as long as you make activities to improve. Please note, I did not say that the manager has to improve, just do activities with the purpose to improve. If the results are not good enough, the manager could be allowed to use more resources and increase actions. In other words. If you are not close enough, shoot more bullets and you will sooner or later hit the target.
In the book “Strategy Maps” by Kaplan & Norton, there is a very good illustration to the business risk of increased structures and controls.
Assume that you have ad hoc management. You will make good result, occationally. It will be at high costs, but you deliver results. If you then apply structures and controls, your efficiency will increase. When you shoot, your bullets will hit within a much smaller circle. You can control the internal performance. But, what if results now are far from expectations? What if you now continuously miss the target? You gain good internal performance but catastrophic results. As a manager you will kindly be asked to take another job.
I believe we all fully agree that the wanted situation should be the “focused” situation, illustrated by the figure. This is when there exist structure and control in the organization and it delivers expected results. The thing I did not understand, when I struggled with some managers, was the need to demonstrate how to mitigate the risks of not meeting the business results during change. Just applying structure and control is no guarantee to be successful.
What you need is measurements and piloting, but that’s another story……