It's Enough To Make You Sick!

It seems that the hot topic of the year has had the wind knocked out of its sails. I'm referring of course to the National Health Care crises which the administration saw fit to spend millions of dollars on while people in this country still went without any health care. (No, this isn't a political pitch.) Between the deluge of health care issues and arguments, there was one phrase which seemed to unconsciously stick in my mind..."managed health care". Knowing full well that the day would come when I was absolutely desperate for editorial subject matter, I filed the phrase away for an occasion such as this. (Patience children. I know where I'm heading with this one.)

There isn't one of us who hasn't had a legitimate problem with his or her manager at some point in time. Discounting the unavoidable personal differences that crop-up every now and then, most of us at one time or another have bumped heads with our manager with justifiable reason. The issue here isn't the conflict, but rather the manager.

The American College Dictionary defines manager as follows: "1. one who manages. 2. one charged with the management or direction of an institution, a business, or the like. 3. one who manages resources and expenditures, as of a household." We can argue the point if you like, but that definition seems to focus more on the company and goods than on the people working for the company. And what many of these firms are beginning to realize is that they're overburdened with excessive layers of management. In many cases, ineffective management. Just look at the downsizing and (I love this one!) "re-engineering" taking place at some of the top companies in the world. It's the middle management people that are being given their walking papers. Companies have had it with managers. What they're starving for today are leaders. Back to the dictionary....

A leader is: "1. one who or that which leads. 2. a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, etc."

Leadership is key to any successful effort, whether in the business world, the colleges and universities, the military, or the government. Imagine the general who has armed his troops but can't direct them in battle. Imagine the professor who can provide the textbooks, but isn't familiar with the course material. Imagine a politician who can acquire millions in funding for fighting crime, and spends it on police cars instead of police officers. The days of believing that a manager doesn't need to know what his/her subordinates do (or how they do it!), are over. A manager who says "We can't do that" either a) doesn't understand what his/her people are suggesting, b) refuses to make waves by questioning existing policy, or c) is too inexperienced (yes, I'm being kind) to act on their own accord. A leader on the other hand will ask "Why can't we do that?"

If TPF is to survive, it is imperative that IBM shake off the yoke of their managers, and look to the rank and file for leadership. And believe me, the leaders are out there. A closer look at the non-management personnel may prove to be both revealing and rewarding. Accept the fact that times are changing, and the old way of doing business just isn't going to cut it any more. Existing organizational precepts should always be subject to re-evaluation. Internal structures should always be subject to review and re-organization. If not, a company loses it's ability to adapt to changes in the marketplace. What's clearly evident in many of the major corporations today, is that inability to respond rapidly and effectively to new challenges by the competition, and IBM is no exception.

In my 18 years in the ACP/TPF industry, I have had the pleasure of meeting, speaking with, and at times working with many IBM'ers who have been equally frustrated with a management philosophy which was cultivated in the 1970's and has been perpetuated by a close-knit group of "managers" who have literally prevented the technology from dominating the transaction-processing arena through their complete lack of leadership!

I don't want to appear to be IBM-bashing. That is not my intent now, and will not be my intent in the future. My respect for the technology and the people who support it (both inside IBM, and at every customer installation) is a matter of public record, and I will gladly debate my loyalty with any person who thinks otherwise. We are right now, this minute, facing the greatest challenge any group of people can face... our very survival. We're on the verge of dying and what we need is health care, not managed health care. Aggressive leadership can cure a lot of ills, and if we can convince the patient to take his medicine, my prognosis is a dramatic recovery and a rich full life for TPF.

Alan Sadowsky