A concise introduction

by Richard Pettinger

How to Use the Web Materials

In the book there is a summary sheet (a crib sheet!) below for each chapter of the book. The purpose of these is to give you a short, quick and easy guide to looking things up; and also to remind you of the things that you will need to know and to be able to do, as you come to learn how to apply the principles and expertise of management; and also this is a very useful guide to exam revision!

This web material takes as its starting point the summaries from the crib sheets. This is so that you have a known and agreed point of reference for each of the chapters, and can use these as access points also for the material in here. These materials consist of:
  • Additional readings;
  • Case studies and examples;
  • Discussion questions;
  • Web links to other examples, materials and sources.
There is also a set of diagrams covering the main management issues. There is a set of papers on particular subjects.

Any study of business, management and organisational practice and leadership has one or two unbreakable rules and these are as follows:

Definitions: you need to have available a definition of all of the key terms that you are ever going to use. This is because:
  • so much management speak and jargon is devised so that people who use this kind of language do not have to make clear what they are talking about;
  • terms such as strategy, culture, employee relations have different perceptions and meanings attached to them; and so you have to be able to make clear the position from which you are addressing them;
  • it is a professional discipline that you need to be clear always about what it is that you are addressing;
  • it is a personal development issue that in order to know and understand things they have to be clear in your own mind anyway;
  • it is a mark of professionalism that you do know these things and can define them, as a part of your commitment to your job, work and discipline.

Justification: what you state or do is not nearly as important as why you state it or do it. Any organisation leader or manager has to be able to support and justify their point of view, ideas or decisions to those with whom they are working at the time. For example:
  • if you cannot give a refund to a customer, you have to be able to explain why;
  • if you are making redundancies or layoffs you have to be able to explain why the people affected are being treated in this way;
  • if you are opening overseas operations, you have to be able to explain how these will contribute to the overall viability and development of the business;
  • if you are having to explain a poor financial performance, then you have to be able to explain to your backers why this happened, and then what steps are now to be taken – and why.
All this reinforces a key theme – that managers have to be able to communicate with everyone with whom they are involved; and that indeed management takes place among people. It also reinforces the need to develop effective organisational understanding as a key part of management knowledge and expertise. In practical terms, this is one of the foundations of professional managerial credibility: to be able to support and justify clearly and effectively why particular decisions have been taken, and why particular ventures get undertaken.

Lines of reasoning: it follows from the above that you need to be able to state and if necessary write down the lines of reasoning that you have used in order to arrive at particular decisions. This means that when things go right, you know and understand why, and so you have a basis for doing similar things in the future. It means also that when things go wrong you have points of reference to work back to so that you can find out where things went wrong, why, where the flaws in your reasoning were; and so learn the lessons needed and not to make the same mistakes again.

Stakeholder issues: in practice there are times when you will need to satisfy the needs of one group of stakeholders at the expense of others. When this happens you need to be clear why; and you need to be able to explain why you are acting in one interest at this point.

Responsibility and accountability: one of the biggest changes for the future is the need to ensure that all leaders and managers take a much more active responsibility for what they do; and that there is a much greater accountability for their actions. This means in turn developing the expertise in reasoning and justification as above; and it means that everything is to be presumed to be in the public domain, and subject to scrutiny. This again reinforces the need to know why and how you are doing things, as well as what you are doing. From a practical point of view also, the enduring complaints about such diverse issues as:
  • the BBC inquiry into the conduct of Jimmy Savile and his managers;
  • the food and meat scandal of early 2013;
  • the collapse of the giant RBS and Halifax banks of 2008;
  • the use of industrial rather than assured cosmetic silicon in plastic surgery operations;
have all hinged on trying (and largely failing) to pin down where collective and individual responsibility and accountability lay in each of the cases.

Moral position: it is increasingly clear that all organisations and their managers are going to have to reinforce every capability that they do have, with a strong and distinctive moral position: in simple terms, this means knowing and understanding what they will and will not do, and why/why not. Again there are practical reasons for this: for example:
  • banks and their managers which stated that there was no room for morality in their sector as they were too busy making money, are now having to argue why they were so bad at making money, as well as working with no moral compass;
  • the BBC report into the Jimmy Savile affair was widely criticised for its lack of transparency and insistence on protecting the reputation of those otherwise involved; the net effect was of course the opposite;
  • the RSPCA is presently having to decide whether it is an animal welfare charity which looks after animals, or whether part of its function is to campaign more actively on animal rights issues; and until it sorts this position out it will be regarded with some degree of uncertainty and suspicion.
Principle: alongside the above, you have to be able to stick to your guns when your lines of reasoning and your standards of conduct are being challenged.

This does NOT mean being obstinate or ignorant; it does mean recognising what you do and do not know and understand, and what you will and will not do, and why. If you  are argued rationally out of a position, then you change your mind (we all do of course). If on the other hand you are being bullied or coerced or threatened out of a position which you know is both managerially and operationally right, then you at least recognise that there will be consequences at some point.

Using the case studies and discussion questions
The most important thing in using the case studies and discussion questions in each section below is to think about the issues from the widest possible perspective as well as attending to the details included. There is no point in using these materials to simply reinforce established points of view, or to get over some of the trickier questions by resorting to unjustified phrases such as ‘ business improvement’, ‘economies of scale’, or ‘managerial responsibility’, without justifying what each means in each case.

It is also the case that many discussions will come to very different conclusions to others of course. Any and every business and management case can be used in a variety of different ways, and can be argued out very differently, depending on the students, the course on which they are studying, and the emphasis of the particular session.

Using the web material
You should use this material in any way that is going to support and enhance your knowledge, understanding and expertise. The purpose of any study of management – undergraduate, BTEC, professional studies, postgraduate, research or practitioner – is to ensure that whatever is learned can be put to good and effective use. Everyone has their own path to this destination; and this website and the book that it supports are one contribution towards this end.

Some notes
Much of what is taught and learned appears to be very straightforward, almost simple. The point is that it is the doing that counts! It is no use learning the best and correct ways of doing things, and the understanding on which this is based, if you then go into an organisation or a management job and then behave as a bully, or guess at the answers to complex business problems, strategic imperatives, or performance measures.

The world of business and organisational practice and operations today, with all of its turbulence, complexity and uncertainty, has been created by business and organisation leaders and managers. For the most part, they did this based on the best of their own knowledge and understanding, together with an attitude of trying hard and doing their best to succeed. If that was right then, this is fair enough.

However this is not enough for today. The state of the world at present clearly indicates that there has got to be a better way of doing things. With this in mind, there is enough evidence to be able to state clearly that organisations and managers who succeed do so because:
  • they know and understand the environment, markets and locations in which they work;
  • they know and understand how to deal with people – customers, staff, suppliers, backers, financiers, and the community at large;
  • they manage and deliver to certain standards and ethics;
  • they are honest and hard working;
  • they continually look for ways of enhancing and improving every part of what they do, and the organisations that they do it for.
Managers today will take lessons from anywhere that they can be found. The best managers listen to advice and guidance before making up their minds about something; and when they do take decisions, they understand the opportunities and consequences.

Managers today are responsible for what they do – and they are also accountable for what they do. When things go well, it is the achievement of everyone that is acknowledged. When things go wrong it is for the manager to explain why, and to propose ways of remedying whatever has happened. This is the state of the expert manager’s position; and anyone who does not like this and who is not prepared to accept it should not be a manager.

So you need to use everything that you can find to enhance your knowledge, understanding and expertise, which in turn will enable you to deliver excellent and enduring company performance, accepting the responsibilities and the accountability that goes with this.