What cannot be Manager Development?

Manager development cannot be just “promotion planning,” confined to “promotable people” and aimed at finding “back up men” for top management vacancies. The very term “back up man” implies that the job of manager as well as the organization structure of the company will remain unchanged so that one simply has to find people to step into the shoes of today’s executives. Yet, if one thing is certain, it is that both job requirements and organization structure will change in the future as they have always done in the past. What is needed is the development of managers equal to the tasks of tomorrow, not the tasks of yesterday.

If a company’s management forced to rely entirely on conventional methods of increasing productivity and if it is specified the goal should be of increasing productivity by 50% in less than say 8 or 10 years then it is a wishful thinking. The Company’s laboratories and factories will continue to find ways to produce more and better goods with a lower expenditure of time, effort and cost. But one cannot expect the physical sciences to carry the whole load.

There has been a growing realization in industry that great untapped opportunities lie in finding ways to develop more fully human resources available particularly the managers of business enterprises. Technological advances and the increasing complexities of managing under today’s and tomorrow’s condition have made manager development a necessity as well as an opportunity. Those who are closest to the field of a company can believe that an opportunity exists in the company to increase productivity by 50% in the next ten years through better management alone it may be possible to achieve the same.

The concept of the back-up man for top management jobs also overlooks the fact the most important decisions regarding tomorrow’s management are made long before a man is promoted to a senior position. Tomorrow’s senior positions will be filled by men who today occupy junior positions. By the time the company has to find a man to take over the management of a big plant or sales organization, the choice must be limited to three or four people. It is appointing people to position as general foreman or department superintendent, as district sales manager, as auditor etc that we make the decisions that are crucial. And in making these decisions the typical back up planning helps us little, if at all.

Altogether the concept of a ‘promotable man’ who shows high potential is a fallacy. There is no method that can predict a man’s development more than a short time ahead. And even if one could predict human growth there is no method or right to play providence. However “scientific” the method, it would still at best only work with 60 or 70% of accuracy: and no man has a right to dispose of other people’s lives and careers on probability

Above all, however, the ‘promotable man’ concept focuses on one man out of ten at best on one out of five. It assigns the other nine to limbo. But the men who need manager development the most are not the ‘balls of fire’ who are the back up men and ‘promotable people’. They are those managers who are not good enough to be promoted but not poor enough to be fired. These constitute the great majority; and they do the bulk of the actual managing of the business. Most of them will say in ten years still be in their present jobs. Unless they have grown up to the demands of tomorrow’s job the whole management group will be inadequate no matter how good, how carefully selected and developed the ‘promotable people’. And whatever can be gained by developing the chosen few will be offset by the stunting, the malformation, the resentment of those who are passed over. No matter how carefully the promotable men are chosen, the fact of their choice must condemn the whole system in the eyes of the management people as arbitrary must convince them that it is the rankest favoritism.