Transferable skills and the shock of the new

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the financial crisis is dramatically changing the way the public sector looks.  Many outside the public sector and some inside consider that management structures built in the good times were bloated, unaffordable and unsustainable.  Slimmer structures have been imposed with fewer tiers and greater spans of responsibility.  There have been and continue to be painful redundancies and ill-fitting redeployments.  The survivors are turning out to be those who can demonstrate transferable skills, the ability to work across traditional service boundaries and the ability to manager without knowing the detail.


Some colleagues are still in shock.


Recently a shoe shop manager was appointed to a management post in the Registrars service much to the disapproval of some colleagues who felt the individual's lack of a professional back ground in the service should have disqualified them. "What will they know about the service and the procedures?" It was apparent that these colleagues did not give as much value to experience of, hitting income targets, managing a large staff group, operating a seven day a week service, dealing with customer complaints, and dealing with building maintenance and security as did the interview panel.


As a result of financial pressures many managers find themselves doing the work of two people. This has forced managers to look at how they are spending their time. Which meetings are essential? Which activities are essential? Am I doing this because of who's asked me to do it, because I enjoy it or because it's crucial to the business?


Fewer managers' means greater spans of control, working across client groups and across service areas, being responsible for services you do not have a background in. It means recognising you know less about more and more since the more services you are responsible for the less you are familiar with what going on in these services. You are more reliant on your managers telling you what you need to know. You worry more about what you don't know and it making you stressed. Keeping yourself informed requires regular one to one's. With twice as many managers directly reporting to you it is essential to plan these one to one's. Rather than saying your door is always open dates need to be booked in diaries. The informal catch up has been replaced by a more structured approach with an agenda agreed in advance providing progress reports and alerting you to any emerging issues or politically sensitive situations. This means these meetings take place more often ( (four weekly has become fortnightly) if you are not to be inundated with back side covering emails and overwhelmed with "for information" briefing notes.


 The traditional weekly team meeting was a luxury you can no longer afford. In any case the team meeting is no longer relevant as your managers represent such a diverse range of services there is little by way of a common agenda. Corporate briefs can be provided electronically.


Not so much a brave new world for managers as a scary new world. A world which focuses a lot more on management skills and a lot less on professional knowledge. A world where you are responsible for more but know less. A world where you need to empower managers because you haven't the capacity to micro manage. All of which means you're less in control- scary.


Blair McPherson author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by Russell House            





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Former Member 7 Years Ago
Interesting piece Blair. What it says to me is that today's manager needs to manage people rather than things. Recruit, train and encourage the right team, set clear objectives, and set them free. Then it's about trust and, occasionally, verify. Just see how the good ones will thrive on responsibility.
Blair McPherson 7 Years Ago
Yes I keep coming back to the importance of people management skills.