Management…view from above

imageRecently, in a meeting I explained to the participants, what we as a management system were trying to achieve. I used the flow as given below, to explain the system and what management levels we operate on.

If you were on a satellite, viewing the world and slowly descended, this is what will happen. Infact think of it as viewing Google Earth.

A. You will see the world from faraway. The countries, towns, large highways, waterways, oceans and mountains will be apparent. You can see the clouds, the trees and how the wind flows. The functioning of the world at macro level will be clear and sitting there you will see very large cross connections. Maybe you can see the Gulf Stream and so understand how nature functions. Just reach out and touch the string which will unravel an issue. Its possible because you can see so much and so far. This is management at a concept level. But you are not the be all! Allah (swt) never gives that status to any individual, team or country. There is a world operating below you and you do not see the details. Beware!

B. Later you descend to a lower Stratospheric level. You still see a lot and cover great territories. But so many countries have disappeared. The Gulf Stream is gone and many oceans and mountains. In the area you can see, the roads are apparent, the turns, the obstructions and the way around them. The thought process is still large, but you are now dealing with a narrower and shallower view. However, it is a necessity for the above concept to be successful. This is the strategy level. Leadership will have to be tuned into strategy, for success to occur.

C. We come down now to a skyscraper level. We are over a town. Its a large one and is an essential for the whole system. If we do not operate at this level we lose the whole edifice. One sees the roads, the cross roads, the connections, the diversions, the vehicles. We can see the traffic snarls and find a way to work around them. It is much more detailed and involved, yet, we can see that there is so much to do here, and because of the details, the larger picture is not so clear. Nevertheless, what we see teaches us that the strategy needs to be shifted in this space a bit, because the traffic snarl was not apparent from higher up. This is the tactical stage. If this is not done properly and lessons not learned regularly, Strategy and Concept will never happen.

D. Finally, we are now on the ground. We see infinite details. We see the doors, windows, shops, people and cars. We see our street, see how it operates and are managing it. Unless we get this right, its going to cause problems. Unless we communicate with the guys in the other streets and together we communicate with the leadership, they will not know the issues on the street. Then tactics will fail and once tactics fail there is a chance that the strategy will collapse and once strategy collapses, then the concept might fail too. This is the operational level and is a vital cog in the overall management process.

We can reverse this view. We could start at the street level and go upwards, through the skyscrapers, to the stratosphere, finally to the satellite. Infact in real life, that is exactly what happens. Information and also careers move in upward direction. At each level many drop off and finally very consolidated information or very few people arrive at the satellite. And since very few or little arrives, it is imperative that what does get there is correct and reliable i.e. People and data.

Each level is important within the system; if a flow of information and people is not formed properly, then disaster will occur. The foundation or any part of the super structure rots, the whole edifice comes crashing down. Hence, communication and what is called the team, is the essence of managing things.

The above applies to businesses, to countries, to organisations and also really to our lives. At some level we have to take a larger view of direction in our personal lives, then manage the strategy, tactics and implementation to get there. And yes, I do realize that man plans and Allah disposes.

* picture is from turbophoto.com

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About sarfarazar
I have been lucky! A long career with large scale organisations and some acclaim. Also, took time off to write, mentor and do some education and social development projects. I continue to mentor and help younger people in life. Inshallah, hope to write on various subjects in my blog.

9 Responses to Management…view from above

  1. Noman Baqai says:

    Very good analogy. I agree that careers generally move in upward direction but information flow is both ways bottom up & top down. If it is only bottom up then horizon of info would be very limited.

    • sarfarazar says:

      In practice it’s communication which flows down..information which goes up. The communication is based on the data which goes up and the vision which is there from up down…

  2. talhasalam says:

    Beautifully put. Your blog is always a good read for any management student. Have taken liberty to share it with my students and found it valuable.

  3. Shahzad says:

    How the person on satellite can ensure that data coming to him is correct and what measures he could apply. Should he only check the KPI set for his subordinates or strategy implementation results or he may go down to the ground and correct the mess. If he goes to the ground, he may lose the sight of strategy alignment with vision/concept. what is your advice sir?

    • sarfarazar says:

      I think information flow will vary in different organisations and cultures…so that will be based on the particular situation. As far as going down to the floor, to check on your subordinates activity and do it yourself, totally kills ownership, teamwork, trust and entrepreneurship. It might be ok in a small business, but in a corporate with complex strutures, it is always disasterous.

  4. Muhammad Anif Chishti says:

    Very good and impressive article. It is the reality which we face in our Professional and as well as personal life.

  5. The biggest enemy in such projects is laziness. A lot of the time our enthusiasm is met with silly excuses and we end up marring the party. The higher we go bigger is the responsibility to be role model and weed out bad habits. I see so often we accept complacency.

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