Why do companies need management? The short, radical* answer is: management is securing the survival of the company. A company strives for self-preservation. Primarily, it is about the continuation to exist, to keep “playing”. This is the area managers are required to make a substantial contribution. Management is a multilevel task. It concerns the orientation of the company and the fact that it concerns human beings. Here at zai, we have a very good idea of putting this into practice. The last months were turbulent. The production facility is moved, companions separate from the company, new and constructive ideas gain ground. But, how should one manage in such a situation? Management experts such as Reinhard Sprenger ** state straight from the beginning: there is no “One size fits all” solution. The ideal case – a company manages itself because there is no provable connection between personality characteristics of managers and the economic success of the company – according to Sprenger. It is irrelevant, whether the managing director is charismatic, grant, visionary, technocratic, confident, reserved, exemplary or authentic.
And that corresponds exactly with my experience. Most managers are simply normal fellow human beings with above-average confidence. What is more: sometimes, I have the irritating experience that managers, who make no claims on “good” management but still (nevertheless) show quite some success: content customers, since products and results are on point; the atmosphere between the employees is harmonious.
As CEO and governing body of a KMU facing fundamental changes, we keep thinking intensively about a sustainable structure of our company. Our design is not limited to firm recipes or dogmas. Nevertheless, there are principles which one can plausibly represent. The organisation needs to be organised around the basis of existence of the company. The following applies: “The more you know about the problems of your customers, the clearer is management of the company”, the easier I get people on my side as a manager. However, customer behaviour and customer needs change over time. Changing as an organisation in time, or even ahead of time, is critical. And here, the cultural side of management comes into play – the actual management of people. How do I introduce the culture of “wanting to change” to the organisation? That is not trivial, because we humans overrate our possessions and underestimate what we can gain.
Rather have one bird in your hand than two in the bushes. The realisation that “what has brought us here won’t be getting us over there”, requires a culture and structure which is open to change. One, which promotes the confidence among people and makes curiosity, imaginativeness and creative power a credo. Decentralized, locally advanced projects often prove resilient enough to function under rapidly changing conditions. Bending the reed, which is swaying in the wind, without breaking it- one of many metaphors, which lead to the root of management?
* (radix, lat. = root)
**(Sprenger, R., Radikal führen, Frankfurt, 2017)