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British Middle Management Needs to get off its Arse

We keep reading about the problems in UK businesses and they nearly all come down to people and management. In my experience depending on the size of the organisation those at the top and the foot soldiers often have a clear vision but this gets lost in the ranks.

In any business cycle there will be challenges and change. Obviously life is more pleasant in a benign environment as the challenges tend to be less life changing and where failure to anticipate and plan can be quietly overcome without embarrassment.

So with 2011 upon us let’s look forward and tackle the issues head on.

“Hoi , I’m talking to you – it is your responsibility and nobody else’s to be prepared, unless of course you wish to fail and incompetence is part of your plan”

By now you should have had your business plan for 2011 for several weeks – what have you done with it?

Nothing, because it is next year’s plan – wrong – this time and the preceding weeks should have been used to examine the plans challenges and to cooperate with colleagues and third parties.

If your plan is positive, negative or no change and it has to fit in there somewhere, it doesn’t matter there are still things to do.

If it is positive and for instance shows a skills shortage what are you doing about it? Can the skills you want be found locally, if so have you reviewed your job descriptions and considered how to resource. If you need trade skills you may need to look for Polish workers to fill welding and fabrication jobs or to become bench joiners or CNC operators as such skills are hard to find in the UK. The care sector is under the cosh in terms of skills but there are solutions out there. What about Irish nurses for instance? The secret is to get off your arse and look well before you need the people. Research the market now, talk to potential suppliers remembering that if you supply indifferent job descriptions then expect indifferent results.

OK, the business in your company is challenging, may be there are thoughts of downsizing that will mean losing people and you might be involved in that process. It is horrible, the worst part of management but being prepared makes it much easier. Work discretely on “what if scenarios” and look at all the options. Recruitment freeze, job reallocation, job sharing, wage reductions, hours reduction and ultimately redundancy and reallocation of duties remembering what makes best sense for your organisation is the key as it’s future prosperity will keep those staying employed.

It is your duty as a manager to find out how to deal with these matters. There is so much self help out there on the internet that most answers are available but if you need training/third party assistance ask for it but try to help yourself in the first instance. Do not ignore the challenge.

So , you judge your business as more of the same for 2011 and if you repeat your mediocre performance of 2010 in 2011 you should be safe. WRONG – every manager should be looking for constant and continuous improvement. Very occasionally you might be able to spot something large that will make a significant difference but that is not generally the case. So what can you do? Remembering that all the incremental changes can add up to as big a contribution as the eye catching big change.

There are literally hundreds of things you can consider, some may actually involve investment to ultimately improve margins but don’t shirk your responsibilities. You work in the business and know it better than any third party. Use this expertise to work on your business as well, by stepping outside and looking in.

Concentrate on the things that will make a difference.

  • Moves to reduce wastage levels
  • Reduce customer complaints
  • Improve productivity
  • Improve cash flow
  • Improve margins

These are headline statements that apply across all of business but you need to personalise them and then give the leadership to make a difference through crystal clear succinct communication.

So come on British management rise to the challenge the tools you need are in place and the answer lies within so roll up your sleeves and get on with it.


Author: Chris Slay

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