What is it to ‘manage’?

I’ve recently got frustrated about a lack of management ability in people with whom I was collaborating:

  • They couldn’t keep track on what they said/wrote, or what they agreed to provide
  • They couldn’t respond or act within negotiated schedule, nor had time or presence of mind to renegotiate
  • They said yes to things with good intentions and little realistic ability or capacity to deliver

So it got me thinking – if I want to encourage or facilitate different behaviour, what knowledge or behaviour am I seeking?

What is it to manage something? With the answer to this question, surely it is possible to plan, execute and measure efficacious action. Here’s what I came up with.

To manage something is to:

  1. Know what you have (description, characteristic, breadth and depth)
  2. Know what state it is in (right now)
  3. Know what you could do with it (now or in the future)
  4. Know what you want to do with it (purpose)
  5. Be prepared to make a decision or act quickly and accurately
  6. Be able to ‘plan’ a series of actions in consideration of time, resources, budget, people, promises, expectations, etc

And I think this can be applied regardless of what you are managing, i.e.
Work (i.e. Action tasks)
Project
Emails
Content
Self
People
Information
Vegetation and vermin (This one is inspired by a sign I saw in provincial Victoria.)
Water
Money
Wealth
Assets

Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group.¬†She thinks critically about knowledge work, and ways to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps teams make better use of their people, knowledge and information.

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