As the world continues to flatten, and as business and technology grow more complex with each new day, the greatest challenge for many companies is to rapidly and continuously adapt to meet the demands of the competitive environment. While the pace and scope of change is unprecedented in human history, the solution for staying ahead of the curve is the same as it has always been: Effective management.
While the principles of effective management are relatively boring when compared with leading-edge technologies or business strategies, the simple truth is that without a strong foundation of effective management, no technology or strategy in the world has a chance to gain a sustainable foothold in the enterprise. The latest and greatest servers and software may give the IT department bragging rights amongst its peers in the short term, but only when such technologies are seamlessly integrated and utilized to drive business results do they provide significant value over the long haul. The same can be said about business books; how many times has a book generated huge amounts of buzz only to end up in the bargain bin because its concepts could not be successfully integrated into corporate strategies and cultures?
The time has come to embrace management as a discipline, and not a secondary functional skill. The scope of professional management extends far beyond the supervising of any specific team or function, as effective management requires vision and understanding outside not only the walls of a given functional silo or business unit, but beyond the walls of the company. Professional managers need to be able to see the entire picture on an end-to-end basis, and understand how all of the parts work together to add value at each stage of a process.
The tendency to promote high performing functional contributors to management roles tends to be misguided, as functional expertise is in most cases mutually exclusive to management acumen. Functional awareness is of course relevant, with the degree of relevance proportional to the depth of an organizational chart in a traditional vertically-driven enterprise, but ineffective management at any level of an organization negates functional competency. Whether an individual manages projects, a team of people, or a specific business or technology function, the core focus on management effectiveness does not change; what is managed is of less significance than how it is managed.