As it appeared in the daily nation of August 11th 2015
by Lucy Kiruthu
We may know of organizations that proactively develop their managers to enhance their managerial skills and to make them better leaders. These organizations invest time and money on specific leadership and managerial skills and more often than not they get a return on their investment. Improvements in productivity, in performance, in staff engagement, in innovation, in customer satisfaction etc are realized as a result of the high quality managers. Unfortunately though, investments in developing managers across the organization are not commonplace. Many other organizations spend little or no effort to raise the competence levels of their management team and yet expect them to perform well. It is no wonder that management practices of the 19th century that focused on basic delivering of a good or a service are still widely witnessed in many of our organizations today.
Any student of business has come across Jack Welch and his legendary transformational leadership during his two decades at the helm of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. One of the transformational changes that Welch introduced at GE was anchored on developing high quality mangers cum leaders. Welch and his executive team were personally involved in these efforts. These efforts were aimed at creating an environment in which people could be their best. In addition to developing leaders, Welch is also well known for having let go the managers who did not live up to the GE values. It was clear to Welch that GE needed to transform from its dependence on industrial products and to grow its service business and this needed the right people with the right skills. Welch talked of an inverted pyramid with the customer at the base of the pyramid and every product and service aimed at meeting the needs of the customers. Welch pushed GE to offer added value services to meet the needs of its customers and his high quality managers made it happen.
Many others stories of quality management practices can be told and retold. Several organizations in Kenya today both local and international such as Unilever are deeply committed to developing their people. They have in place well defined management and leadership development programs. A few of these organizations have introduced the 360o feedback process to identify their manager’s training needs and coaching opportunities.
The quality of managers across organizations remains a key determinant of the quality of service delivered. Managers either support or greatly hamper service improvement efforts and overall quality of service. I have come across organizations where managers are not held accountable for the quality of service in their departments and neither are staff responsible. As such, the quality of service remains mediocre and unaccounted for. If the food and beverage manager does not care about the uncooked or burnt rice, neither will the chief chef or the waiter. If the CEO is not modelling the way in service quality and challenging the processes used to deliver the service, neither will be the rest of the management. James Carse sees the management in the 21st century having an infinite goal of delighting customers. This is only possible if managers are well equipped with the management and leadership practices and attitudes of the times we live in.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy