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Knowing the intent, not just the immediate objective

Written by on 07 March 2011

All too often, we plan for the short-term, giving subordinates limited information by communicating only a series of tasks and immediate objectives that are monitored before the next set of tasks are issued. This incremental method of management allows the individual to remain in control and exercise centralised co-ordination.

Limitations of prescriptive management

The temptation to “lock down” the operational plan is very appealing for many professional managers. The perception of prescriptive management is that it limits risk through centralised decision making and co-ordination, accessing high levels of cognitive and implementation experience. However, this also limits the speed, adaptability and innovation that can be achieved through a more empowered approach.

Understanding the wider picture

Spending time communicating the wider picture to subordinates provides a rich picture of the context and the overall aims of the organisation. This lifts people to take individual actions into a wider, joined-up organisational response. This wider approach gives individuals a sense of worth and importance, as they know their actions are part of an overall plan, and that others are relying on them to perform within their part of the plan. This inclusive approach, combined with empowerment, allows the individual to utilise their own operational and tactical knowledge to innovate new ways of providing the desired outcome.

Individuals understanding what is required and why

When individuals understand not only what you want them to do, but also why you need them to do this, they can often take advantage of emerging situations in order to apply new methods of providing the overall intent. These new ways of engaging the wider organisational community can often produce results that circumnavigate the original plan; this can reduce costs, speed up implementation and make the organisation more competitive.

Empowering people to understand the importance and contributions of there own actions

Communicating intent provides the framework for individuals to recognise the importance of their actions. When individuals feel valued they are more likely to engage, accept responsibility and be committed to positive outcomes.

Enabling leadership through information and clear direction

The responsibility for communicating intent is a critical function of leadership. The leader must adapt their methods of communication (language, terminology, tone and methodology) for the audience they are addressing. Whatever the audience, the leader must effectively communicate their intent to the audience – it is not the audience’s responsibility to understand the leader. Therefore, we need less management speak if we are to get our audience to understand what we are trying to achieve – plain speaking please in business!

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