[IMGCAP(1)]Through the years there have always been subtle changes for managing partners and CEOs, and their reporting partners and managers, in the functions and activities of managing the firm or company.
As opposed to being tweaks to the management tenets themselves, they often were interpersonal buzz words that a “coach” used to sell a training session on interpersonal leadership skills. They lacked sustainability within the organization.
From 2000 to 2007 and the great recession, CEOs and managing partners were deluged with “One Minute Management” techniques, interpersonal skills, emotional leadership, how to deal with crisis management, the Theory X Theory Y approach, TQM, TBM, conflict management, change management, coaching, entrepreneurship, innovation, Zero-BM, The 7 Steps etc. etc. etc.
All of these can have merit, but none incorporates the “blocking and tackling” principles of management required by CPA firms for the 21st century.
When the great recession hit, reduction in fixed costs meant that the management staff, which was usually the higher paid group, was reduced significantly. Sources claim that every industry averaged a loss of 18 to 25 percent of their management staff, including the financial community.
That is significant, because it flattened organizations like no other time in modern history. They remain flat today.
Just as significant was that during that time period the experienced, usually higher paid manager was often terminated, while the less experienced, usually lower paid manager was kept. After all, the objective during the meltdown for every size firm and company was to remain viable and weather the storm, particularly when banks took away so many businesses’ credit lines.
Corresponding with this was the need to cut costs at every size firm and company, so training and development budgets in the HR department were decimated.
In 2014 we find ourselves with partners and managers who were weaned on the interpersonal leadership skills of an earlier era, but know little about what I call the “blocking and tackling” tenets of strategy, planning, organizing, leading, teamwork or control.
What we have witnessed at client and non-client firms and companies since mid-2013 up to the present is that a new paradigm of strategic management is evolving in which collaboration and teamwork are tempered by team planning and metrics of control, all held together with the glue of accountability. We suspect this has occurred by necessity, because of flatter organizations, but few managing partners and CEOs understand what it all means and how the pieces of the new paradigm now fit together.
To continue to be successful, partners and managers must be developed to efficiently utilize this new paradigm to their benefit, and that presents the real challenge. It is a new paradigm that combines the interpersonal skills on which partners and managers were weaned from 2000 to 2007, with the blocking and tackling concepts that a partner requires to be a great leader. The new paradigm is Leadership Management.
It occurred because a great leader must not only have the interpersonal skills but must also be able to achieve more objectives with fewer direct reports in today’s business environment by managing the leadership with the six functions of management, which are strategy, planning, leadership, organizing, teamwork and control.
With the major cutback of personnel and the corresponding shift of multiple management workloads to fewer managers, the cries for help are beginning to resonate. Not only do many managers have too much of the specialists’ work to accomplish now, but they were never really taught to understand the tenets of what “management work” encompasses.
Firms and companies have gone through a decade of training partners and managers how to be good “coaches” to innovate, but these coaching sessions did not prepare them for the recession, in which solid management tenets and axioms were required to succeed and grow.
Perhaps the reason for the outcry from management about workloads is clearer now, because it becomes obvious to most managing partners and CEOs that a return to the “blocking and tackling” of teamwork in managing a company or department is the only solution in which they can be successful in the 21st century, but it has to include accountability and metrics in managing.
In the 21st century, the companies with the best managers in allowing the “team” to take action will be the stalwarts of that era, whether small or large, and it is not just empowerment.
The main difference today is that the people of the organization are the ones who will perform these tasks and make decisions, so a “leadership manager” must be a leader who understands the tenets of successful management teamwork and communication, with a solid understanding of the use of accountability and metrics to control the process. That’s the new paradigm.
The challenge for today's firms and companies in the 21st century is to adapt and change their process of management, which will free up time for all partners and managers in the organization, at all levels.
The strategic significance of this to a CPA firm is that many of their clients are in a similar managerial situation as they are. The firm’s opportunity to provide these value-added management services could benefit the client as well as the firm.
Greg Weismantel is president of Epic Group, a management consulting firm and advisor on strategy for small and large firms and companies. It partners with clients to identify their primary driving force while recognizing strategic opportunities of their markets, products and services that will deliver the highest value for ongoing growth and sustainability.