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Management training: today and tomorrow.

Management Training: Today and Tomorrow For almost two decades the American manager--part John Wayne and part Mr. Dithers--has been a classic figure in the business world. But the image of the boss is undergoing something akin to a personality transplant as new roles are grafted onto the manager's basic functions of planning, directing, controlling, and organizing work.

In a business world turned topsy-turvy by foreign competition, swiftly changing technology, and more highly skilled work force, the manager's job has become much more complicated. New roles for managers include that of leader, communicator, team member, teacher, learner, and career consultant.

How did those roles, once scattered throughout the work force, end up on the manager's list of needed skills? One factor is the autonomous workplace, characterized chiefly by the large amount of control individual workers or teams each have. In an autonomous workplace, the manager cannot direct and control as he or she used to do without squelching creativity and effort and so must try to lead. In a workplace where discretion is spread far and wide, managers need to communicate strategic goals up, down, and sideways to be sure that discretionary effort is not wasted. The new manager is also the principal conduit for encouraging others to learn through a judicious use of appraisal and rewards and by assuming the role of the master teacher.

In addition, one of the manager's newest and least acknowledged roles is that of learner, for the manager is also the principal conduit for pushing new knowledge up the line. That line accumulates information inside the company through the production, testing, and use of its products and services. The learner role has not yet reached deeply into selection, preparation, and remuneration of most managers.

Our research over the last two years has sketched in many details that have been missing from the portrait of the manager in America. We have looked at the big picture also to find out what new managers' skills are important today. Moreover, our research has uncovered hard data about the amount and kind of training managers are getting and will need for the future.

The Role of Management

Managers exist in every organization. Traditionally they are the people who plan, organize, direct, and control its major functions. They achieve their strategic goals by working with and through other people. General managers and exectives have broad responsibilities for charting the course of strategic change. Middle managers communicate and carry out that strategic vision. Supervisors are junior managers who schedule and oversee day-to-day work.

Managers are important for many reasons. They facilitate the contributions of others by allocating resources and creating the work environment. More specifically, executives and general managers, middle managers, and supervisors are all important in getting new strategies, technologies, and products or services off the drawing board and to the client or customer.

Managers are key in every phase of the competitive race to translate new ideas into new, better, or cheaper products and services. Because of their access to information, executives and general managers occupy key listening posts for recognizing, legitimizing, and introducing innovations inside and outside the company.

Once an innovation is in hand, executives and general managers must lead its integration into the existing company culture, production, or service delivery structure. After an innovation has been in place, middle managers and supervisors are key leaders in gathering new knowledge. This is the knowledge that accumulates in the production and use of the innovation that may lead to more efficient ways to produce or use the innovation, quality improvements, and new applications for the innovation.

The New Management Challenge

American managers have performed well in the classic top-down hierarchy as long as innovations were conceived by white-collar and technical elites and produced by less skilled employees--all under careful supervision. In a world where there was not much competition, there was little urgency in getting an innovation to market, or in being more efficient, improving quality, or developing new applications for the original innovation.

In the 1970s, however, we saw our competitors getting to market faster with a new product or service, producing it more efficiently, improving its quality, and applying it in new ways that simply had not occurred to us. Though American managers continued to work well with technical elites to develop innovations, they fell short in all other areas.

The failures stem, at least in part, from top-down management styles and the hierarchical structures that support them. Those traditions are no longer consistent with the realities of modern production and service delivery.

In the modern work environment the managers are challenged to adjust to a new workplace where people are more autonomous and managers have less direct control over performance. The culprit that stole managerial control is technology. By taking over repetitive tasks and allowing the combination of many jobs into fewer jobs, technology has conferred autonomy on skilled workers. Armed with technology and skill, they are less subject to managerial control than their predecessors.

In manufacturing, large numbers of assemblers, laborers, repairers, materials handlers, and machinists are being replaced by small numbers of technicians. In services, bank tellers are being replaced by financial planners, and secretaries by office and information systems managers. Technology also lets its users diversify and customize products and services even at the delivery or production stage. As a result, today's nonsupervisory employee needs skills commonly associated with the managerial function: self-management skills, interpersonal skills, teamwork skills, and problem-solving skills.

In the new workplace, both autonomy and the mangerial function have been pushed down the line, challenging top-down management practices and the hierarchies that housed them. In the more decentralized and flatter organizations that result, managers enforce accountability less by supervising work processes and more by looking at the outcomes of the efforts of individuals or teams.

In the new organization, authority, responsibility, and resources will be drawn down the line toward the point of production and service delivery. Organizations will be "more like holograms in which each part of the organization contains enough of the information to recreate the whole" (Schein, 1988).

In services, frontline personnel are already able to use information-based technologies to marshal the organization's whole information base to customize a diverse array of services for individual customers. In manufacturing, the traditional one-size-fits-all approach is being eclipsed by customization. Technicians can tailor runs and product specifications with increasing care.

In the new workplace, managers need to relinquish authority to tap the "discretionary work effort" of the new autonomous employee (Yankelovitch and Immerwahr). They also need to connect selection, appraisal, and rewards to what people know and how they perform rather than how long they have been around.

In the new workplace, the ability to get an innovation to market quickly requires nonsupervisory employees to participate in the design of production and service delivery systems. They key management skill in such an effort is leadership.

In the new workplace, cost efficiencies, quality improvements, and new applications occur during the production, testing, and use of new products and services. As a result, managers need the skills and institutional savvy to embed two kinds of learning systems as close as possible to the point of production or service delivery: Managers need to be able to teach employees the skills required in their new expanded roles and learn from those who make the product, deliver the service, or interact with the customer.

Adjusting to the new workplace will not come easily to American managers. Our competitive style throughout most of the postwar era has been to translate large scale R&D--usually government-funded--into products and services, relying principally on managerial and technical elites.

Our schools reflect an outdated competitive style, too. They are quite good at producing managerial and technical elites but not so good at providing basic solid skills to the half of high school graduates who do not go on to college. Over the long haul, the schools will adjust. In the meantime, managers will have to reeducate themselves--as will their erstwhile subordinates.

The Future of Management

In the future, there will be more management and more managers. There will be more management because nonmanagement jobs increasingly call for managerial skills. There will be more managers because the number of frontline production and service delivery workers will decline relative to the number of managers, professionals, and sales and marketing employees.

What is eliminating frontline employees? The usual suspects--machines and foreign competition, with technology as the ringleader--are eliminating low-skill jobs. Production and service delivery is performed by fewer, more highly skilled employees in combination with more technology.

New technologies also allow consumers to substitute for low-skill employees. In the same way the number of laundry workers declined with the invention of the washing machine, new technologies allow consumers to participate in the production and delivery of more and more goods and services.

If technology is the ringleader in eliminating frontline jobs, the lesser members of the gang are millions of low-skill workers coming of age in the developing world. We cannot match sweat equity with the vast numbers of such workers. Low-skill, low-wage jobs are being exported to developing countries where labor is cheap.

As low-skill, frontline jobs disappear, today's organization is increasingly populated by highly skilled employees who work with more and more technology. These employees must be able to innovate, create production and service delivery systems, develop new applications, and customize products and services in markets of varying shapes and sizes.

In the future, a greater proportion of all jobs will require managerial, marketing, and customer-service skills. A greater proportion of the jobs will go to managers, professionals, and customer-service personnel.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between new and the year 2000 the number of operators and assemblers will decline while the number of technicians will increase by almost 40 percent. The number of managers, professionals, and marketing personnel will increase by more than 30 percent. Even though manufacturing is projected to lose almost a million jobs between now and the next century, current projections suggest that output and productivity will increase in manufacturing and that managerial jobs will increase by almost 100,000.

Overall, the number of management jobs is expected to increase by three million between now and the year 2000, more than one and a half times the rate of increase in other occupations. This increase will be due to the growing complexity of institutions. The growth in management jobs also will be driven by the increased number of institutions as a whole.

In the future, more and more of our gross national product will be generated by trade and service organizations that tend to be smaller than manufacturing institutions. The more institutions, the more managers, and the smaller the institution, the larger the proportion of managers to the rest of the employees.

The chart shows that the proportion of managers in all industries was about 8 percent in 1984. The percentage varies greatly by industry, depending on the size of the establishments in it. Most of the growth in the American economy will occur in smaller institutions where managers are a large proportion of the work force.

Anthony P. Carnevale is the American Society for training and Development's chief economist and vice president for public affairs. He is the principal researcher for this project.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor. Monthly Labor Review, September 1987. US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Carey, Max L. "How Workers Get Their Training," US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, bulletin 22226, February 1985. US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Lee, C. "Where the Training Dollars Go." Training Magazine, October 1987, pp. 51-57.

Executive Knowledgeworks. Executive Education in Corporate America: A Report On Practices and Trends in Eight Major Industries, 1986.

Stephen, E.; Mills, G.E.; Pace, R.W.; and Ralphs, L. "HRD In the Fortune 500." Training and Development Journal, January 1988, pp. 26-32.

Yankelovitch, D. New Rules. New York: Random House, 1981.
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Title Annotation:part 1
Author:Carnevale, Anthony P.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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