Management talent is the limiting factor

In a survey by consulting giant, Towers Perrin 55% of those surveyed described work in negative term with one third of those surveyed using extremely negative terms. And guess what? Almost all of these problems stated could be virtually eliminated by good managers. But that seem highly unlikely given these same employees have very little confidence in their competence of their managers. Poor managers wreak companies.  Another survey by Cubiks, the HR consultancy, said that 60% of those surveyed (who left their positions voluntarily) had been forced to leave their jobs because of a poor manager, while over 70% of those same people had underperformed at their job due to poor managers.

Penrose was so right. Edith Penrose had a major resurgence in popularity during the late 1980 and into the 1990’s due to the development of the resource-based view of the firm and strategy. While she put forth a number of proposals in her book, The Theory of the Growth of the Firm, among the most interesting is that there is no natural limit to a firm’s growth, but that current management (talent) and managerial resources inherited from the past set a limit on the firm’s growth. When she speaks of managerial resources, she is also speaking about past management and the legacy of their decisions. Since this book was published in 1959, management theory, practice and training have progress substantially (?); however, it may be the case that the lack of management talent is even worse today at a time when we generally can’t afford it to be.

What is Talent?

Talent can be defined as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied”. The key words here are recurring and behavior. It is not something that you do once or a random action. It is repeatable and controllable. Successful companies not only are full of talented managers, but also filled with managers that can identify and attract talented employees as well.

The lack of management talent is even more acute today

Firstly, although there has been some changes in general management theory and techniques during the last 40 or 50 years, management has not advanced that much. However, the business environment has changed substantially, whether it is the increase in women in the workforce, the change in the financial markets, the level of globalization, the Internet, the rate of change itself, and more.

While there has not been a substantial change in the training or skills of managers, there has been a tremendous increase in the quality, skill, education and training of the employed talent. The increase in basic education during the last 50 years has been significant. On top of that you can add a huge increase in supplemental training and education programs. As a result the quality of the average employed person is head and shoulders above what it was in the past. This has created a management/non-management divergence in the level of competence.

Given that the quality of management has generally not increased at the same rate at which the quality of non-management personnel has, this has made the underlying lack of management talent more acute. This is problematic because during a time where there is an increasing demand for management skills, businesses are hard pressed to find them.

And surprisingly in an economic environment here thousands of people including managers are being let go, quality managers are still hard to find.

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