Just another WordPress weblog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Management Styles; by directive or direction

The reorganization of communications on campus has created a lot of good discussion on this Blog and elsewhere.  It’s obvious that some people love the change, while others hate it.  Some want to see more, but faster change.  Some want to see more, but slower change.  Some don’t want to see any change at all:-(

You know me, I love change.  Good or bad, change happens and it is sure to be a constant here at NC State.  Remember, we have a new Chancellor starting on Monday!

But one aspect of life at NC State that is sure to take some time to change, is the decentralized nature of the university.  Randy Woodson will make some changes there, and we’re doing the same in communications.  If I was to be pinned down, I would say I’m in favor of “rapid” change.  Not today or tomorrow change, but certainly not in five years change. Rapid change.

A couple of the blog comments and emails I received after the reorganization announcement got me thinking about the type of management that works best in a university environment.  The traditional corporate model might work in some examples of higher education (one boss, one voice,) but not here.  NC State has  become what it is today because of the strength of it’s colleges and units.  Not the strength of one individual.

Here, and in most examples of higher education, the manage-by-consensus model is most effective.  You work together with the entire organization (a collegial approach, get it) to develop a strategy and move forward.  When possible, you undertake bold initiatives like we’re doing with the reorganization of University Communications and CALS Communications Services.  And there will be more as we continue to advance.  I believe that movement forward in this environment requires starts and stops.  It’s very similar to the management style at Harley-Davidson.

1990 or 2010 Fatboy???????

1990 or 2010 Fatboy???????

Think about it, Harley has been successful not because of rapid change, but because of slow steady progress.  The Harley-Davidson Fatboy model that was introduced in 1990, looks an awful lot like the Harley-Davidson Fatboy model introduced in 2010.  Sure it’s different, but you’d be hard pressed to tell at 1990 from a 2010 if one passed you on the highway.

The company has been true to its culture and evolved over time.  In 1983 the company was on the verge of bankruptcy.  It went up against the rapid change and technological innovation of its Japanese rivals, and lost.  But when the management at Harley stepped back to evaluate the situation, they began to realize they didn’t have to follow a traditional model.  They could build  something that relied on slow, steady progress (aka change)  and the passion of their customers.  They created HOG, introduced a new and improved Evolution engine (note, they didn’t call it Revolution.)  Brought out a new line of new “old” motorcycles, and today they are the largest motorcycle company in the world.

The management structure at Harley was reorganized into circles, each responsible for a particular area of operation.  There were/are the Product Development Circle, Sales and Dealer Support Circles, Parts & Accessories Circle, Provide Services Circle (the circle marketing communications was in.) There were seven of ’em in the company.  All the circles had to reach consensus for major change to occur.  It worked and while it has been modified during the past 27 years, the structure still operates in a similar manner.

While it’s nice to dream about a place where one individual can come in and change things overnight, it’s a pipe dream in higher education.  At least that’s my opinion.

So, are we better served with management by directive or management by direction.  What do you think.  Check out some of the other opinions in the comments section of recent blog posts.  They will really get you thinking.  And thanks to everyone bold enough to comment.

Passion Rules!

1 of Many


1 Jane Albright { 03.30.10 at 7:10 am }

I agree with you, Joe. In every study I’ve ever seen in organizational communication, management by directive leads to a quick change, but resistence can be so great that progress slows or reduces over time. Management by direction assumes people are intelligent, and with time will accept and adapt to change; which then becomes sustainable. Of course, in the real world, changes come so rapidly that adapters are often a step behind, but that’s OK.

And, finally, I find it sad that fear is so great that people are posting anonymously. A fearful workplace doesn’t encourage creativity and risk-taking — and there’s too much talent in this communication group to waste!

2 Joe Hice { 03.30.10 at 7:17 am }

I don’t mind the anonymous posts. As long as they are backed by a reasoned comment and are constructive to the discussion.

Leave a Comment