We live in an era of quick fixes and tsunami-like trends and fashions. It’s easy to become enamoured of the latest management and leadership fads. The first one goes back to the 1950s.

First introduced and advocated by Peter Drucker, “management by objectives” was based on the idea was that roles and functions should be analyzed into separate tasks and components and then assigned to managers as clear results-oriented objectives.

It’s still the basis of most delegation and responsibility assignments. In the military it’s called “mission command.” Both are based on the entirely reasonable idea that initiative, creativity, and job satisfaction are maximized when people are told what to do (what is expected in performance/output terms) and the reasons for doing so. They then can use their freedom of action to find the best ways and means to achieve the objectives.

Unfortunately, management and business strategy are prone to bouts of fashion, imitation, and fads. One year it’s “blue ocean strategy,” the next it’s “edge” strategy. One month it’s “servant” leadership, the next it’s “holocracy,” or some other such facile characterization of organizational and business dynamics and challenges.

We need to get back to basics and adopt a perspective that operates from an underlying understanding of human behaviour and psychology. Management by objectives, mission command, or whatever you want to call these approaches, they all rely on parsing out responsibilities, authorities, and accountabilities on the basis of a rational analysis of projects and objectives. Everything else is noise.

© 2016 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes are permitted with proper attribution.

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