Friday, December 28, 2007

Two Management Philosophies

Management philosophies differ on the relative weights given field offices versus headquarters.

In the models I favor, the central nervous system is designed to be responsive to needs in the field.

It's not a matter of setting policy in some arm chair setting, and expecting minions in "lower offices" to just do as they're told and don't bother us with the details.

That's what I call "too wag the dog" in that what an organization should run with are whomever actually shows up as the talented individuals, enough inspired by loyalty and a sense of shared, worthy goals to be willing to freely commit time and energy, and to freely share in the benefits of their business.

Go with their strengths, even as they train in new skills. Let your cast write the script, don't pretend you have all the luxurious freedoms a film maker might enjoy. Real time isn't so easily micro-managed.

If you have a juggler on board, then by all means include juggling in your programming (let Perl Mongers write Perl), but if your central office plan "calls for" a juggler, and a stage magician shows up instead, and you put her on hold, because of some "script" well, you probably won't be recruiting such talent again any time soon (your loss, not hers).

Case in point: the Portland School Board almost didn't go with the LEP charter high school simply because "the timing was wrong" -- never mind the cast had shown up, ready for action. The mood was to just wait indefinitely, in the name of "convenience" (for whom?).

One thinks of Howard Hughes in The Aviator, paying everyone to do nothing, because the weather was too good (only clouds would prove the airplanes were moving -- something like that).

One learns from experience (or doesn't, if one is too proud, too stuck in being a know-it-all all of the time (don't fool yourself kid)).

Another case in point: every so often, the AFSC flirts with centralizing in some literal "for dummies" sense, as if Philadelphia were some all-knowing omniscience all of a sudden (when did that happen?).

But in actual fact, the reason AFSC has such street cred among NGOs is it really pays attention to its senses, is a reality-based creature, not just your typical "nobody home" corporation with a GIGO-speak board.

So in the AFSC's case, I can't say I'm too worried -- nor about PPS for that matter, given wisdom prevailed at the end of the day.