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Management by Sitting Around" (MBSA) is bound to become the buzzword for the late 1990s in the way that "Management By Walking Around" (MBWA) was for the late 1980s. In fact, mortgage bankers can now "walk around" without leaving their desks. Technology is at the root of this change. The ability to get incredibly close to information within their shops has allowed top-level executives to stay put and manage. Yet, they have their fingers more closely on the pulse of their organization and have access to far greater levels of detail than the casual observance of the shop floor could ever deliver.

What are the factors that will necessitate this change in top-level activities? Foremost, MBSA makes sense now. It is the job of the line-level manager to interface closely with his or her people. At the operational level, insight can be gained about staff performance and reported up through the chain of command, preferably through standardized technological measures. Top-level executives need to be able to react to the information provided by lower rungs of the corporate organizational chart. To do this effectively, I do not believe they can spend much of their valuable decision-making time anywhere but in front of their computers. The executive workstation is no longer an electronic mail machine but a powerful forecaster of future events, with full analysis and projection capabilities. Only from the executive suite can decisions involving the organization's external environment be made.

The speed which we must react to the marketplace has been another driving factor in the move to "sitting around." The facsimile machine, overnight mail and the proliferation of local- and wide-area networks on PCs have created an environment in which task completion is desired immediately. It is almost never enough to tell a customer that you will put something in the mail. Executives must know the marketplace and be able to rely on good management information systems (MIS) to react to requests from outside the firm as well as within.

Because workplace expectations have become more immediate and top executives cannot afford to be too far from their phones, sitting around seems a likely choice. All information can be directed to the management teams' screens; allowing constant readiness for decision making. One would think that the proliferation of cellular phone technology would made it possible to MBWA while staying in constant touch. However, it is clear from recent studies that top users are salespeople and homemakers, in that order. This bears out that the cellular revolution has not taken hold in the executive suite; and I doubt it ever will. Cellular bears no status to its user; rather it is a weak link to verbal information that must always be verified and then keyed-in to be analyzed.

Is sitting around already helping us to manage better? Take the current market environment for refinances. Incoming call volume, directed to an automated call-sorter where the customer uses the touch tones to request information, can be analyzed quickly and handled effectively. Though servicing runoff is occurring at dangerous rates, some of the tide is being stemmed by internal marketing. Would this have been possible in 1986? I don't know, but I am sure that in 1992 executives can juxtapose market rate with call volume and deliver both a street price and an internal price set to keep the portfolio as intact as possible.

The value of an executive information system (EIS) is often defined by its "drill-down" capabilities. Picture the typical corporate pyramid with the CEO on top and the widest layer on the bottom representing clerical and administrative employees. Systems that let the decision makers use MBSA allow the executive to look down the pyramid or at what's behind the information on their screen. By viewing the detailed data that makes up the information on the charts and graphs, officers can move around the pyramid and glean the same information (if not more) than a walk around the building could produce.

When walking around, executives are able to compare the past with the present. For instance, managers might view a customer service department one week and see several reps waiting for the phone to ring. If in a few months, a subsequent visit shows that many calls are on hold or unanswered, it may be a time to better evaluate staffing needs. This type of comparison is of value to all. However, the nicest thing about sitting around is that you can also compare the future. Punch in a few keys on the system that told you that many calls were waiting and evaluate the effects of better training, more staff or a different phone system. The results may be surprising, and the use of simulation/forecasting software, in conjunction with the EIS system may prove itself to be of excellent value.

In the above example, the executive needn't worry about people looking busy, or phones being off the hook, or any one of a number of situations that could affect one's view of a situation. The EIS system offers pure data, interpreted as instructed and is quite a reliable indicator of how things were, are, and should be. Technology offers those that use it the ability to empower themselves and to make decisions in an information-rich environment, without having to leave one's office.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Mortgage Bankers Association of America
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:management information systems
Author:Hershkowitz, Barry
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Previous Article:Executive essay.
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