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The Management Bible
loved by your major customer’s buyers) announces her resignation, effective immediately.
• Afraid that he will be punished for making a mistake, an employee working on the assembly line in a high-volume manufacturing facility ignores a “minor” production flaw in one of your key products. This flaw goes unnoticed for weeks until customers start rejecting shipments of the product and demanding immediate replacement— costing your company millions.
Whatever the source or the nature of the crisis—whether it is avoidable or not—the fact is that as a manager, you will be expected to deal with it. This means being flexible, being smart, and working hard. But, above all, it means being prepared for the most typical crises that can hit your organization—through written plans and procedures—and then taking on the crisis sooner rather than later.
If you don’t have a plan or procedure in place to deal with a particular crisis, what then? Our advice is to be fast and flexible, to rely on the advice and input of your associates and colleagues, and to do whatever it takes to deal with the matters at hand. This is no time to start a three-day weekend, to let everyone go home early, or to put off a meeting to deal with the crisis until next week. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work—now!
Last, as a manager, you have significant control over avoidable crises and, ultimately, the impact that they have on your organization. If you ignore problems that seem insignificant today, they can blossom into the mother of all crises literally overnight. Keep a close eye on what’s going on in your organization, your industry, and your overall business environment. If you have unhappy employees, persistent manufacturing flaws, complaining customers, or changes in your industry that threaten to drive clients to new products and suppliers, then it’s in your interest (and vital for your organization’s long-term health and well-being) to deal with issues like these as they arise and not wait until they become full-blown crises.
THE ART AND SCIENCE OF MANAGEMENT
THE REAL WORLD
Some people say the more things change, the more they stay the same. That is, we are fast becoming an age in which the norm is change, and, as a result, we must learn how to get things done in a constant state of flux. Waiting until there's time to thoroughly weigh the pros and cons and make a clear, rational decision is increasingly a luxury. Instead, managers must make their best decision based on limited information within tight time constraints. The best managers make assessments quickly with the best available data and then live with their decisions. The worst are timid and struggle with coming to a decision and then almost immediately second-guess themselves, revisiting the decision and often regretting the original conclusions that they made. Strive to be the former type of decision maker.
HELPING EMPLOYEES DEAL WITH CHANGE
As you have seen and experienced in your own organization, change is everywhere, and it directly affects every one of us. Sure, as a manager, you may feel that you are at the epicenter of the change quake, but don’t forget that your employees are also affected. And, because they are often even less able to control or have an impact on how the organization deals with change, they may feel more vulnerable to its effects— perhaps even powerless. As a manager, you are in the best position to help your employees weather the changes that they experience on the job. Here are a number of ways to do just that:
• Be interested in your employees. Employees appreciate people—especially their managers—who show through their deeds and actions that they really care about them. While you should always show a sincere interest in your employees and in their successes
The Management Bible
and accomplishments, it is especially important when they are working through the stress and pressures brought about by change. Start with their needs, questions, and issues.
• Listen. When employees find themselves undergoing change in their work environments, they want to talk about it—with their coworkers and with their managers. While it’s your job to keep your employees apprised of the situation, it’s also your job to listen to them. Instead of cutting them off or jumping into the middle of their statements, allow them to vent or fully express their fears or concerns.
• Seek feedback. Be sure to seek ideas and feedback on dealing with change from your employees. The best ideas often come from workers on the front lines—the people who work most closely with your customers and the products and services that you sell them— and you should be sure to tap into this important resource.
• Explain the potential for change. People do not like to be surprised by change in their jobs or organizations—especially when they are the ones most directly affected—and everyone appreciates being kept informed about potential changes in the environment that might lead to a future crisis. Being informed not only helps employees become better prepared to deal with the coming change but also makes them feel that they are important and valued partners in the organization (which they should be).