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What is traditional Management?

From the traditional perspective,
management is not a solitary activity. It is something Managers do in relation
to staff members. For Managers to manage, staff members must cooperate. This
simple premise, on the surface, seems so self-evident it can be merely assumed,
with no need for serious thought. Managers manage and
staff members cooperate
. Management is, it seems, no more

We can imagine a situation – Managers
manage and staff members cooperate
– where the traditional understanding of
Management fully explains the Management process and relationships. In those
circumstances, the agency is like a train where the cars of the train blindly
follow the engine down the pre-set track. The relationships are also simple.
Each unit of the train has a pre-defined position and is hard-locked into
position. There is minimal tolerance for variation or deviation and no tolerance
for individuality or creativity. This is traditional management. Such
management is judged by the extent to which the agency follows the pre-set
rules and procedures and how efficiently the agency runs in relation to
available resources. A perfect rating is 100% compliance with applicable rules
combined with achieving this performance level within the approved budget.

With skilled, traditional management, an
agency improves in two ways. First, it reaches higher levels of compliance.
Second, it becomes more efficient, using fewer resources to achieve the same or
higher levels of compliance. Do human services agencies need this type of
skilled, traditional management? They do. No contemporary human services agency
can function effectively and successfully without it. The Manager must manage
and the staff members must cooperate.

There is, however, a second dimension
within which Management must function if SSI is to pursue excellence in
addition to compliance and efficiency. This is the adaptive dimension of
management. Here, the simple premise of staff members cooperating with the
Managers is insufficient. Within the adaptive dimension of Management, emphasis
shifts from technical knowledge and understanding of the fields of
administration and human services to the adaptive management skills of the
individual Manager.

No two people will pursue the adaptive
dimension of management in exactly the same way. How a specific Manager manages
depends on his (or her) personal life experiences, his personality, his
individual interpersonal style, on what he chooses to emphasize and what he
personally thinks is less essential. In this dimension, rules – including
agency policies and procedures – and available resources represent functional
, not evaluation criteria. Evaluation of the Manager within the
adaptive dimension is, thus, two-fold. First, the Manager must
operate within the existing rule and resource – functional – parameters. Next,
his success is judged in terms of the extent to which he contributes to SSI
achieving its intended outcomes.

We can consider management from the
perspective of the Manager – traditional – or from that of staff members -
adaptive. If developed from the perspective of the Manager, we emphasize the
traits and characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of the Manager. Good
management is primarily a product of Managers who exhibit more of the desired
traits and characteristics and avoid the less desirable traits and
characteristics. If developed from the perspective of staff members, we
emphasize management strategies and techniques to encourage and maximize the
strengths and individual talents of staff members. Good management is primarily
a product of Managers who are able to fully actualize the potentials and
capacities of staff members. Careful attention to these apparently opposing
perspectives reveals they are not separate perspectives. Rather, the second is
the complement of the first. Good Managers blend both traditional and adaptive
management techniques and strategies. (For a useful historical review of task
and social leadership style, strategy, and process presented primarily from a
social work perspective, see Brueggemann, 2006, pages 78-110. The material
applies equally to leadership and to the management perspective discussed

and adaptive Management are separate and complementary dimensions of
management. They are not the opposite ends of a continuum. As Figure 7 shows,
management can range from high traditional to low traditional management. This
is represented by the descending, diagonal dotted line
in Figure 7. Management moves down from higher traditional management to lower.
Management also can range from low to high adaptive management as illustrated
by the ascending, diagonal dashed line in Figure 7. Management moves up from
low adaptive management to high.

As we focus on Figure 7, the blending
is where the two diagonal lines cross. There, management is
two-dimensional. This is the optimal balance for SSI management, i.e., the point where the mix of
traditional and adaptive management creates the optimal environment for SSI
staff members.

For traditional Managers who
believe good management primarily depends on personal traits and
characteristics, strengths and weaknesses, thinking focuses on how to
personally maximize those traits and characteristics thought to be associated
with good management.

How do good Managers behave in various

How do they interact with SSI staff members?

How do they approach and handle problems and challenges?

How do they enforce the rules and regulations
governing agency operations?

How do they assure staff members cooperate?

What traits and actions differentiate good
Managers from less successful Managers?

For adaptive Managers who believe
good management primarily depends on strategies and techniques to encourage and
maximize the strengths and individual talents of staff members, thinking
focuses on how to encourage staff members to personally and more specifically
manifest the behavior thought to be most clearly associated with SSI’s success.

How do Managers support staff members to
actively pursue SSI’s mission?

How do Managers assure staff members commit
their full energy and capacity to SSI’s success?

What techniques and strategies are necessary to
maximize the contribution of each staff member in relation to his (or her)
individual skills and talents?

How do Managers enable staff members to choose
spontaneous cooperation because it is the right thing to do?

How do Managers facilitate staff members’
functioning more autonomously and independently?

What environmental and situational factors are
managed to minimize avoidable loss of energy, skill, and focus and to maximize
the actualization of the productive potential of staff members?

On the one hand, the traditional
key to good management is in definable traits and characteristics of the
Manager. On the other hand, the key is in factors and conditions related to the
performance of staff members and adaptive strategies and techniques to optimize
those factors and conditions. Good management depends either on improving the
performance of the Manager or on increasing the participation and commitment of
staff members. Although SSI Managers know both approaches are separately
productive, they prefer blending the approaches. They believe they can best
manage the SSI internal eco system when they concentrate both on personal
pro-management traits and characteristics and on implementing strategies and
techniques to increase the autonomy, participation, and commitment of all SSI
staff members.

Considering SSI management as it
applies to decision-making is instructive. How are decisions made and who makes
them? At one extreme, decision-making could be autocratic. The traditional
Manager has absolute authority and makes all decisions. He (or she) may ask
others for advice, information, and suggestions, giving the impression of
participation. Nonetheless, the Manager decides. The quality of decisions thus
depends exclusively on the judgment of the Manager. The opposite extreme is not
consensus or some other type of group decision-making, as one might at first
think. Rather, the opposite extreme is chaos. All participants in the agency
act on their individual judgments and initiative. Even if each staff member
makes all decisions from what he (or she) thinks is in the best interest of SSI
– and all staff members will not – the resulting chaos is, at a minimum,

If we look at
making with autocracy – high traditional management – at one
extreme and chaos – low traditional management – at the other, SSI management
falls within a fairly narrow range between the extremes. SSI Managers know if
they move too far toward autocracy, staff members become alienated and
functionally constricted. Their performance becomes less effective than it
might otherwise be. Alternatively, if SSI Managers move too far toward chaos,
SSI’s internal eco system becomes fragmented and increasingly dysfunctional.
Exactly defining the limits of the optimal decision-making range is open to
debate and disagreement. Even so, the reality of the optimal range is obvious
and the importance of SSI Managers thoughtfully functioning within the range is
clear. SSI Managers do not move outside the optimal range toward either
extreme. The optimal range for SSI Managers is toward the middle, as
illustrated by the point where the two diagonal lines in Figure 7 cross.

We could debate the
relative benefits of intentionally shifting SSI management behavior toward one
end of the optimal range or the other. For example, is it better for a Manager
to be more autocratic or less autocratic? Is it better for him to defer more to
the judgments of staff members or to defer less? Should he delegate more
decision-making authority to staff members or less? The debatable aspects here
not withstanding, SSI Managers maintain their management behavior within a
relatively narrow range. Exactly where individual Managers function within the
optimal range depends to a significant extent on the Manager’s personality,
strengths and skills, specific circumstances and conditions, and on a mix of
other factors.

Just as traditional management
varies from high to low, with chaos resulting if the level gets too low,
adaptive management varies from low to high, with chaos resulting if the level
gets too high. If the level of autonomous, independent, self-directed
functioning of staff members gets too high, there is a reduction in
coordinated, integrated effort and an increase in idiosyncratic activity,
approaches, and behavior. These tendencies shift the internal eco system toward
instability and chaos. For this reason, the optimal range for adaptive
management also is toward the point where the two diagonal lines in Figure 7

Just as there is a fairly narrow,
optimal range within both the traditional and adaptive dimensions with respect
to decision-making, there are optimal ranges for other aspects of SSI
management functioning. For example, strategic planning for SSI proceeds within
fairly narrow limits. At one extreme, planning could be so autocratic there is
no real improvement over time or virtually no buy-in by staff members and
stakeholders. Alternatively, planning could be so unconstrained change becomes
non-sustainable and chaotic. SSI’s success depends on the capacity of its
Managers to pursue strategic planning within optimal limits. Just as there are
optimal limits for strategic planning, there are optimal limits for other
activities and areas. SSI Managers understand and function within the multiple
optimal ranges related to SSI’s success. Their success is not related to where
they function within any specific range. Rather, it is derived from their
demonstrated ability to continuously maintain their behavior and functioning
within optimal limits on all of the relevant ranges concurrently. Their styles
and approaches vary but nonetheless only vary within fairly narrow limits. Any
apparent inconsistency is mostly a product of the multiple ranges, individual
variations within and among the ranges, and the personalities and individuality
of the Managers.

From the above discussion, we see SSI staff
members cannot and should not expect a traditional working environment. They
have a high degree of personal and professional latitude to do what they think
is appropriate and reasonable. They have assigned duties and responsibilities
and are expected to achieve predetermined outcomes within their areas of
responsibility. At the same time, they do not receive close supervision, do not
have someone giving them specific directions, and are generally not told what
to do or when to do it. Rather, they are provided with the relevant
functional parameters and needed resources and opportunities to achieve the
expected outcomes and judged based on whether or not they achieve them.

There is an underlying philosophy
governing the practice of SSI Managers. It is based on a simple maxim – SSI
Managers help staff members seek what they seek.
They help them pursue
SSI’s mission. Consider the two elements of the SSI maxim. First, SSI Managers
are helping. They are helpers who are helping staff members. For SSI
Managers, their role is to help each SSI staff member succeed. Within SSI,
management is a helping profession in the same sense teaching, social work, and
the ministry are helping professions. Consider what it means to be a helping

SSI Managers base their practice on
accepted theory and knowledge, verified techniques and strategies, and on best
. They do not make it up as they go along or just do whatever
strikes their fancy today. Their behavior and actions are governed by a keen
sense of responsibility. They are clear about the values underpinning their
management practice and the standard they use as they help staff members seek
what they seek. They do the right things right, the first time, on time, every
time, no exceptions, no excuses; and they help SSI staff members adhere to this

As SSI Managers, they take the
initiative to assure what needs done gets done. If there is something important
to do and it is not getting done, it’s their job until it’s done. They assure
the necessary resources and services are deployed to complete the job. Further,
they help other SSI staff members adopt the same orientation to personal and
professional initiative. As SSI Managers, they direct all of their talents,
energy, and resources toward a single outcome: Doing the right things.
As they help staff members seek what they seek, they assure staff members have
the training, support, and resources they need as they direct their efforts
toward the same outcome.

As SSI Managers, they continuously
evaluate their performance, their progress toward the goal. Continuous
Performance Improvement – CPI – is based on a simple idea. They are committed
to getting better and better at getting better and better. What’s more, this
commitment extends to helping those who seek what they seek to get better and
better at doing the right things with them.

The second element of the maxim is staff
members seek what they seek.
There are two points receiving SSI Managers’
careful attention with this element. First, they are clear about what they
seek, clear about SSI’s mission, for it’s this vision of excellence they are
helping SSI staff members seek. They communicate their vision of the right things,
with a clarity and passion that helps staff members join them in their journey.
As they communicate, they understand, “A message cannot be isolated or
disassociated from an organization’s context. Rather, any message sent or
received by an organizational member is interpreted against the background of
all other messages received.” (Shockley-Zalabak, 1991, p. 13) Managers are
sensitive to the context of their communications and take care to assure they
are consistently clear, credible, and open to all feedback. Second, they
understand those whom they are helping are tuned into WIIFM. What’s in it for me? is asked and has to be
satisfactorily answered by everyone. Whether SSI staff members are extended the
continuing opportunity to help depends on how well the answer to the WIIFM
question fits with the needs and interests of those with whom they work. The
answer must be they do and will continue to make a positive difference in the
lives of SSI’s clients.

People typically think this would be the
ideal work environment. They think succeeding, given the high level of personal
freedom and self-direction, would be both easy and satisfying. Unfortunately,
many people do not function optimally in this type of working environment. They
want a Manager who manages them. When there is not someone who tells them what
to do, how to do it, and when to do it, they have trouble staying on task and
following through with everything needed. Without someone to set priorities for
them, they struggle with doing it for themselves. When they do not have someone
judging what they have done, they are uncertain about how well they have or
have not done. They want to be evaluated mostly based on how conscientiously
they have followed the rules, on how hard they have tried and less on how well
they have done.

SSI staff members are evaluated on the same
basis, whether they are Managers or have another position in the SSI eco
system. They are expected to function within the existing rule and resource
parameters. Further, their success is judged in terms of the extent to which
they achieve the expected outcomes. Anyone who will not or cannot meet these
expectations cannot succeed as an SSI staff member.

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