Level 1 of the Management Skills Pyramid shows the basic skills any beginning manager must master. It is the foundation of the management skills pyramid, which shows the skills a manager must master to be successful and shows how these management skills build on each other toward success.
Basic Management Skills
There are four basic management skills anyone must master to have any success in a management job. These four basic skills are to plan, organize, direct, and control and they are discussed separately in detail below.
Planning is the first and most important step in any management task. It also is the most often overlooked or purposely skipped step. While the amount of planning and the detail required will vary from task to task, to skip this task is to invite sure disaster except by blind luck.
That's what provides the old adage of the 6 P's of planning: Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, (or the 7 P's: Proper, Prior, Planning, Prevents, Piss, Poor, Performance) depending on how you count.
Although most people associate the term planning with general business planning, three different levels of planning actually exist:
- Strategic Planning
- Tactical Planning
- Operational Planning
And, different kinds of planning are used to achieve levels and areas of preparedness:
Basic Management Skills Needed for Effective Planning
These are some sample skills that you must have to effectively plan.
- Envision a future state
- Mentally organize the essential mission and vision that will move you to the future state desired
- Determine an overall strategy that will achieve the future state desired
- Select short term goals and activities that will get you there
A manager must be able to organize teams, tasks, and projects in order to get the team's work done in the most efficient and effective manner. As a beginning manager, you may be organizing a small work team or a project team. These same skills will be required later in your career when you have to organize a department or a new division of the company.
Clearly, overlap exists between planning the work and in organizing it. Where planning focuses on what you need to do, organizing is more operational and is more focused on how to get the work done best.
Basic Management Skills Needed for Effective Organizing
When you organize the work, you need to:
- Determine the roles needed to accomplish the plan
- Assign tasks to the roles
- Determine the best resource (people or equipment) for the role
- Obtain the resources and allocate them to the roles
- Assign resources to the roles and delegate authority and responsibility to them.
Whether you have been assigned a small team or a project to manage, beginning managers must also be able to organize offices and data systems.
More Related to Organizing
You may not be able to physically move people around in order to get your team together, but you should consider the possibility. On the other hand, you may need to move several people into a small space and you will have to organize things so the team can work effectively within that space. Later in your career, you may need to organize an office to accommodate teams from several different departments and their specific needs.
You will also need to be able to organize all of the computer systems that will handle the data your team needs to collect or distribute. You must decide whether, for example, you need to set up shared web pages on the company's intranet or just a shared folder on the file server. Decide how are you going to organize the systems so everyone who needs information has access to it (and that it is not available to those who should not see it, like your competitors).
If your team needs or produces something other than information, you must organize so that your team gets what they need, when they need it, and can get out to others what your team produces at the right time.
Finally, you will find that it is seldom enough to organize projects once. With constant changes in resources, goals, and external factors you will usually need to reorganize to adjust for them.
Directing is the action step. You have planned and organized the work. Now you have to direct your team to get the work done. Start by making sure the goal is clear to everyone on the team. Do they all know what the goal is? Do they all know what their role is in getting the team to the goal? Do they have everything they need (resources, authority, time, etc.) to do their part?
Pull, Don't Push
You will be more effective at directing the team toward your goal if you pull (lead them) rather than push (sit back and give orders). You want to motivate the people on your team and assist and inspire them toward the team goals.
Basic Management Skills Needed for Directing
When you direct the team's work, you need to:
- Provide clear direction so the team can succeed
- Make certain that team members are clear about the role they need to play for the team to succeed
- Provide the least amount of direction to the team so the team is empowered to succeed
- Provide inspiration and follow-up to maintain a presence in support of the team
Some writers try to "soften" this basic management skill by calling it "coordinate" or similar terms. The stronger term, control, is essential, though, so that the manager is able to control the team's activities.
In the steps above, you have planned the work, organized the resources to make it happen most efficiently, and directed the team to start work. In the control step, you monitor the work being done. You compare the actual progress to the plan. You verify that the organization is working as you designed it.
If everything is going well, you do not need to do anything but monitor. However, that seldom happens. An employee gets sick, the database sort takes longer each iteration than projected, a key competitor drops their prices, a fire destroys the building next door and you have to evacuate for several days, or some other factor impacts your plan.
Readjusting the Project
The control step now dictates that you have to take action to minimize the impact and bring your project back on to the desired goal as quickly as possible. Often this means going back to the planning stage and adjusting plans. Sometimes it may require a change in the organization. and you will have to re-direct everyone toward the new goals and inspire them. Then, of course, you control the new plan and adjust if needed. This cycle continues until you complete the task.
Basic Management Skills Needed for Controlling
When you control the work, you need to:
- Monitor the progress of the team and projects
- Ascertain that each role is accomplished by an employee
- Set standards for performance and quality
- Help the team solve problems and remove barriers to their success
- Provide feedback on actions taken and the team's progress
- Provide rewards and recognition for the team's successes and progress
- Make adjustments to decisions made at the planning, organizing, and directing phases as needed
Managers Also Control Tools
In the control step, you set standards for performance and quality and then you monitor to make sure they are met. There are as many tools available you as there are things you need to monitor.
- Scheduling tools: A number of software tools allow you to input your schedule and then update progress regularly. The program will highlight changes in the schedule so you can identify corrective action to take.
- Financial controls: as a manager, you will usually have a budget. The reports from the Finance Department will let you know how your spending (on people and other resources) matches the plan.
- People control: you must make sure all the people on your team are performing as planned. If they are not, you need to find and fix the cause. Do they not understand the goal? Do they not have some resource or skill they need? Is the task too big for them and needs to be modified or assigned to a different resource? Your job as the manager means giving your team members feedback on how their performance meets the plan. When it doesn't, you need to take corrective action.
The Bottom Line
The beginning management skills: plan, organize, direct, and control are fundamental to a manager's ability to accomplish their assigned goals, projects, and the work products and progress of the portion of an organization for which the manager is responsible. With success in each of these basic skills, a manager is on the right track to a successful management career.