Manager Redefined: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: July 14th, 2011 by bobmorris

Manager Redefined: The Competitive Advantage in the Middle of Your Organization
Thomas O. Davenport and Stephen D. Harding
Jossey-Bass (2010)

A brilliant exploration of neglected opportunities in the management “ecotone”

In Thomas O. Davenport’s latest book, co-authored with Stephen D. Harding, the focus is much narrower than in his previous book, Human Capital: What It Is and Why People Invest It. More specifically, it is primarily on those who comprise middle management, who labor “between the world of employees and the territory occupied by senior leaders.” That said, my own opinion is that C-level executives should also read this book because they possess the authority to decide whether or not to adopt and then support what Davenport and Harding characterize as “a new model of manager performance.”

Here are the four categories of manager performance requirements:

Executing Tasks: “This element comprises planning work, clarifying job-related roles, structuring specific job tasks, monitoring performance, and making the necessary adjustments to ensure the work meets organizational needs and supports business strategy.”

 

Developing People: “The next element of the performance model calls for managers to create opportunities for each employee to add to her storehouse of human capital. In doing so, managers create the ability for people to carry out their jobs and achieve their goals.

 

Delivering the Deal: “Managers play a central role in brokering the exchange of each employee’s investment of human capital for the portfolio of financial and nonfinancial, intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that constitute a return on that investment. We refer to this reciprocal arrangement as the deal between employee and enterprise.”

 

Energizing Change: “Effective managers look ahead in time and outside the boundaries of their units and their organizations to anticipate and respond to environmental shifts and to envision, plan for, and create the future.”

Although none of these observations is a head-snapping revelation (nor do Davenport and Harding make any such claim), together they provide an eminently sensible framework within which to flesh out the specific performance expectations for each manager in the given organization, whatever its size and nature may be.

The four elements are best viewed with an outside-in perspective whereas their foundation, Davenport and Harding correctly note, consists of self-awareness, relational transparency, balanced processing of relevant information, and an internalized moral perspective. These are the “underpinnings” of a manager’s authenticity.

Davenport and Harding devote a separate chapter to each of the four elements In Part II: Implementation, Chapters 5-8, and then in the next chapter they focus on how to connect authenticity and trust, how to build trust through authenticity, and what the implications of management performance are. I especially appreciate their provision of a brief Summary at the conclusion of each of the ten chapters. His reader-friendly device will enable, indeed expedite periodic review of key points.

 

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