Just Culture, Just Management

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On the Home Page of our web site at www.timelesstime.co.uk we mentioned two concepts desirable in a firm: ‘just management’ and a ‘just culture’. developing_cultureWhat on earth are they? Are they simply esoteric states that it’s fun to talk about but never achieve? Or are they something tangible that every manager of every SME should strive for?

This brief blog discusses these two concepts.

First some definitions. Management’s role is to manage. Successful managers manage with the blessing of their staff. They gain legitimacy thought the culture they create and their appointment to a senior position by the board. That’s not to say that there’s a sort of democracy, just to acknowledge that to give direction and demand that stuff happens needs legitimacy. In an environment where folk chose to work in a firm, legitimacy is essential or folk walk or worse, they simply ignore the instruction. Managers are facilitators. They orchestrate and lead change. But they have to have their staff with them or they are pushing water up hill.

Culture is the climate that needs to be in place for management to gain that right to manage. It’s also the group’s skills, knowledge, attitudes, values and motives. If all the aforementioned are positive, legitimacy comes easy. If not, the manager must adopt a different approach, departing the ideal of facilitator and orchestrator and taking on a directive and authoritarian approach This leads to a breakdown of the culture and a weakening in the manager’s ability to effect change. Whilst it might be OK in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen, such aggressive methods become wearing after a short time.

Now some argument. So what’s ‘just management’? Under just management, the principal and their senior team have legitimately taken the right to effect change in the firm and cause employees to do things needed for the good of the firm. Just management can only occur in a just culture where culture and strategy align and where employees are optimally motivated to contribute to the firm’s success. There’s a culture that is optimal for every firm. Even in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen a young sous-chef could have a ball as they learn the hard way at the start of their career. But for most firms this just culture needs balance.

Just management and just culture occur together. We can describe them and the management actions needed to create them. For more reading on the subject see our Knowledge Base and the White Paper entitled Culture Matters. It’s at http://www.timelesstime.co.uk/white-papers.

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