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A manager's dilemma

Dear Managers/Leaders,

You are responsible for a huge project that if implemented well will bring huge profit and great image to the company.

Good news is you have do have all the great people in the company. The bad news is to successful launch the project, you need your people to commit 12 hours each day for the next 3 to 6 months.

What would you choose? Will you take the project, and force your people to work hard or will you say no to the company management that your team are not capable to do that? Of course, for the latter, you either ask for an extension or extra resources but both will have impact on the company bottom line.

You finally choose to tell the company management the bad news. After all, you really care for your people and you know that your people need to balance their life - to spend time with their family, friends and on their own hobbies, studies or even part-time job. So, you ask for extra resources or extension. After all, you think, the top management should be able to understand. The chances are - you are living in your own world. The top management is forced to understand, but they don't. They may wonder in their big brains , 'What so difficult with the projects? Why can't people work harder to commit? Why can't people think for the company and not their own selves only?'
In the end, you may successfully deliver the project with the extra resources or extension and the project bring no profit to the company. At the annual appraisal, you cannot do much to adjust your team salary. Neither you can give them bonus or vacation or great motivation. People is not very happy and they feel the company is not caring enough. After all, they have really delivered the project. It is probably the project scope that is underestimated that cause the project to fail to generate any profit. Who to blame and what are the supposingly right things to do? No one knows the answer.

Let's now consider you choose the other option. You either force your team to commit the 12 hours or you talk nicely to them and get them to commit by their own choices. You do have great people, after all. So, project get started, everyone dive in and work like a monkey (yeah, monkey, jumping up and down!!!!). They almost seems to "lose their live" and they begin to feel frustrated and helpless. Their families and loved ones worry about them. The office becomes a pressure cooker, ready to explode. Finally, the project get done, but suffers in quality because of the bare resources. Customers are not too happy, although they know there are no other better company that can do these for them. After the project, the team still get stuck to do support, maintenance and bug fixing which are a lot due to the poor quality. Company is able to reap some early profit out of the project. But the morale of the people drop. People taking more times off to be with their family and friends because of the previous sacrifices. Company are going through a stagnant stage, where everyone is dried up and need times to pick up their momentum. Finally , at the annual appraisal, the company management cannot give a very good adjustment because of the "poor quality" or "lot of times wasted in bug fixing" or "people not working hard enough anymore" even though there are still some profit gained. After all, the company need to save some money for the future since now the people is like taking a break and not really going beyond expectation. Again, people is not happy and they do not get what they want even though they are working really hard.

This is the dilemma of a manager. You need to manage both the result and the people. You need to produce high quality deliverables in a short time and you need to take care of your people feelings. And you are not allocated enough times to do both.

If you are spending a lot of times talking to your people, you are not really directly creating the result. There are no tangible deliverables from the talking and people assume you do that because it is easy to do.

If you are spending a lot of times trying to help your people get the result, you ignore your other responsibilities, especially the capabilities to see the bigger and further picture.

If you are spending a lot of times following up with other people and managing the result, it seems your people is dependent on you and not matured enough to manage their own results.

If you are spending a lot of times creating tasks and tracking the tasks, you give no encouragement for people to contribute outside the box or be creative. If you give too high-level objectives, people do not understand what you want them to achieve and some will get their priorities wrong.

If you are spending a lot of times trying to see the bigger and further picture, supporting the top management, you might have a great vision , but may not be able to execute. But without the vision or the great plan, people will lose direction.

If you spend your time helping others, your own performance suffers but at the same time, the company promotes teamwork and culture of sharing.

So, is this Apple or Orange?

What is your choice?

Can you strike a balance and be a great leader?

Will you go more to the people side and sacrifice on the result?

Will you go more to the result side and be dominant and heartless to your people?

With greater power come with greater responsibilities. You need to manage up and manage down, even manage 360 degree. No one actually will tell you what to do now. You need to be on your own journey. Well, I am sure you hear the stories where great leaders bring the company from good to great together with a bunch of great people, where in the end, everyone gain from it. Great salary, great freedom, great bonus and great environment. Yeah, the Google story, the hedgehog concept, the winning attitude.

I wish you the very best luck.

Yours sincerely,
A struggling manager.


Anonymous said…
"After all, you think, the top management should be able to understand. The chances are - you are living in your own world. The top management is forced to understand, but they don't. They may wonder in their big brains , 'What so difficult with the projects? Why can't people work harder to commit? Why can't people think for the company and not their own selves only?'"

Aren't the management also thinking about themselves too? If you are experienced enough you would have realized that most managements are self-centered, egoistic and selfish but working under the guise of being understanding and magnanimous . I call them hypocrites.

Think for yourself if its worth sacrificing for the company. They want to get the most out of you so you do the same. If you can't get much then why bother?
Anonymous said…
The situation of the manager that you mentioned in your post sound familiar..:)However,to be frank, manager actually does not think on the "people" perpesctive but the overall picture, the team leader should be the one who taking care of the "people" side. Manager tends to have high level thinking. Sometimes, setting an achievable target is more realistic, rushing will only lead you to no where and you will lose your target eventually.
Susan said…
I agreed with both comments. I do not really mean managers are hypocrites. Maybe some do. :)

Yes, manager,especially on the top level need to take care of the bigger picture.

In fact, let's say if the company is not able to perform and in the end, need to be shut down. This will definitely affect the people more. So, for some managers, their priority is to take care of the bottom line first in order to take care of the people.

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