Archive for August, 2011

Liquid Arrow

Tight or loose management – which is the best way for firms to thrive in a chaotic business world?

Wrong question…old school question.

Instead of a tight or loose?* either/or question, we should be asking: Which aspects of our business require us to adhere to rules, and where do we need room to move within boundaries?

To begin this conversation, we must examine our assumptions about the true nature of work today.

Let’s list some of the givens of our current business environment (along with how we need to respond):

– it is unpredictable (therefore we must create a flexible way forward)

– it depends on messy human relationships (so we need to nurture cooperative interactions)

– it depends on discretionary effort (so it’s vital to understand what motivates people to do their best work)

– there’s a yearning for meaningful work (so it’s vital to define the firm’s purpose, as well as each project’s purpose beyond meeting schedule, budget and scope)

When tight management is applied to the wrong aspects of the business, initiative and progress are stifled. Likewise, misapplied loose management results in wasted time and effort. “Loose” does not mean sloppy, haphazard and uncaring. In any case, striving for a uniformly tight mechanical system of  management goes against human nature and leads to endless frustration.

Let the conversation begin! Which aspects of your business are tight-appropriate and in what ways do you need more room to move?

– Sharon VanderKaay

* I first encountered the concept of tight/loose management in Tom Peters’ and Robert H. Waterman Jr.’s 1982 book, In Search of Excellence – and yet we still wrestle with this issue.

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