When skills Fail

During turbulent times, managers really have to stay on their toes, and use all their skills and competencies to benefit the organizations and its stakeholders – employees, customers, investors, the community and so forth. In recent years there have been numerous highly publicized examples of what happens when managers fail to effectively and ethically apply their skills to meet the demands of an uncertain rapidly changing world. The profusion of company failures is alarming. Companies like Enron, Tyco, and WorldCom were flying high in the 1990s but came crashing down under the weight of financial scandals. Others such as Rubbermaid, Kmart, and Xerox are struggling because of years of management missteps.

Although corporate greed and deceit garb the headlines many more companies falter or fail less spectacularly. Managers fail to listen to customers misinterpret signals from the marketplace or can’t build a cohesive team and execute a strategic plan. More than 250 public companies declared bankruptcy in one recent year, and the rate seems to be increasing. Although economic factors and other outside forces play a part, the main reason for most failures is poor management. Recent examinations of struggling organizations and executives offer a glimpse into the mistakes managers often make in a turbulent environment. Perhaps the biggest blunder is manager’s failure to confront and adapt to the changing world around them. For example, even though Xerox’s PARC research center practically invented the personal computer, top managers resisted getting into the computer business until it was too late to even get in the game, much less have a chance at winning. A related problem is top managers who cerate a climate of fear in the organization, so that people are afraid to tell the truth Thus, bad news gets hidden and important signals from the marketplace are missed.

Other critical management missteps include poor communications skills and failure to listen treating people only as instruments to be used, suppressing dissenting viewpoints; and the inability to build a management team characterized by mutual trust and respect. The financial scandals of the early twenty first century from Enron to mutual fund mismanagement clearly sows what can happen, for instance, when top managers pay more attention to money and Wall street than the do not their employees and customers. As another example, consider what happened at The New York Times when it became publicly known that Jayson Blair, a rising young reporter had fabricated and plagiarized many of his stories Only then did top executives acknowledge the pervasive unhappiness that existed in the newsroom. Executive Editor Howell Raines, who had created an environment that, favored certain editors and reporters, while others were afraid to offer dissenting view points or tell their managers the truth resigned under pressure following the scandal. The Times is still struggling to regain its footing and reclaim its honorable image.

Technical skills

Technical skill is the understanding of and proficiency in the performance of specific tasks. Technical skill includes mastery of the methods, techniques, and equipment involve involved in specific functions such engineering, manufacturing, or finance. Technical skill also includes specialized knowledge analytical ability, and the competent use of tools and techniques to solve problems in that specific discipline. Technical skills are particularly important at lower organizational levels. Many managers get promoted to their first management jobs by having excellent technical skills. However, Technical skills become less important that human and conceptual skills as managers move up the hierarchy. For example in his seven years as manufacturing engineer at Boeing developed superb technical skills in his area of operation. But when he was asked to lead the team designing a new fuselage for the Boeing 757, he found that he needed to rely heavily on human skills in order to gain the respect and confidence of people who worked in areas he knew little about.

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