The Value of a Renaissance Manager: Improving Work Productivity

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Success, in business, often comes down to the effectiveness of management. The most important, and indeed truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the knowledge worker. – Peter Drucker

Renaissance managers are those who like Renaissance man are knowledgeable in an unusually wide variety of the arts and sciences, most notably in the field of management. They have substantial knowledge on how to manage organizational resources- human and technological– effectively and efficiently.

Building and sustaining competitive advantage requires a continuous drive for improvement, especially in the 21st century, in both technology and management. Neglecting one or the other can make the crucial difference between success and failure, where the well-being of thousands is at stake and billions in profits can be won or lost in the competitive struggle. Yet, both practices do not exist in a vacuum.

According to Ed Addario in The human side of technology – how to get the most out of your tech team,

Technology is always reinventing itself, always challenging the status quo. As a result, there are a myriad of tools out there with the sole purpose of improving our day to day activities, both at work and at home that have evolved from the need of something faster, or better. But, technology is just that, a tool. What makes it a success is the people who use it.”

Drucker’s notion of management as a liberal art can help renaissance managers in getting value out of the technological tools employed throughout their organizations. What underlies technological advances is, the desire to make processes easier and faster. But it is entirely reliant upon those who are working for its operation.

One of the undeniable realities of today’s business world is that, strong leaders need not micromanage companies. As an alternative, they must have a working belief on the purpose of their companies and their goals, and they must communicate this broadly to gain the commitment of others.

They must be a people who set expectations for performance, and delegate authority to others to meet agreed-upon objectives, hold them accountable for performance, and reward them accordingly.

These leaders are never satisfied with the status quo. They build a culture that is based on openness, trust, and a shared sense of the organization’s purpose. This gives rise to decentralized decision making and encourages risk taking. As a result, innovation and acceptance of change are established as the norm, and employees are motivated to seek improvement in performance both in terms of their own job and of the firm itself. – Rogers S. Ahlbrandt, Richard J. Fruehan & Frank Giarratani in The renaissance of American Steel

It is impossible to escape the fact that dynamic leadership is required to shape the critical decisions that focus on organizational resources and help it to gain competitive advantage in a market.

Managers need to see the importance of having a “vision” of what the company is and what it is going to be. That will ultimately translate into successful management.

It does little good for top managers to know where a company has to go if they cannot get the people that comprise the company to share in that commitment.  Overriding this is the need for leadership that brings coherence to the enterprise.

Top management needs cooperation from every level of the enterprise if a firm is going to realize and sustain a competitive advantage.

In his own words, Peter Drucker believes that, “the great challenge today is to make productive the tremendous new resource, the knowledge worker. This, rather than the productivity of the manual worker, is the key to economic growth and economic performance in today’s society.”

In order to succeed, managers need to start valuing their subordinates. Both as individuals and as competent.

Meetings with workers are to be taken as opportunities for exchange, not tests of loyalty or fealty. In them, the manager would be seeking opportunities for improvement and ratchet expectations for performance upward. But this is to be done in a way that retains and strengthens commitment.

 The idea is to always get commitment and keep people focused on goals that contribute to financial performance.

It is as Peter Drucker said, “The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the workers but of the manager.”