Research

Why do managers go home every night, with a full briefcase, feeling badly about what they didn’t get done that day, instead of feeling good about what they did get done?

This is the question that started the research program that eventually led to the establishment of Effective ManagersTM, an organization dedicated to helping managers be more effective.

Too often, organizations can inadvertently put roadblocks in the way of managers – sometimes the very systems that are put in place to help managers actually hinder them in unintended ways. Opinions abound on how to improve performance, but no published research exists that quantifies manager effectiveness and the drivers that reinforce or constrain effectiveness.

The Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, and Effective ManagersTM partnered to undertake ground breaking research investigating managerial effectiveness in the workplace. This research explored new aspects of the management literature.

The research study closed at the end of 2013. Nearly 200 managers, representing nearly 2,000 manager-subordinate relationships from eight organizations (private sector, not for profit and government) participated in the Effective ManagersTM research project. The results are now being written up for management sciences journals.

Managers report they are operating at just over 55% effectiveness.

They are attending meetings they shouldn’t attend, reading emails they shouldn’t have to read, fighting jurisdictional battles they shouldn’t have to fight, and duplicating work also assigned elsewhere.

The bottom line is that, through research, we have an understanding of the actual effectiveness of managers. On average managers feel they are operating at just 55% effectiveness. That is an ineffectiveness ratio of over 2 days a week! Managers identified that they spend just over 20% of their time doing work that is not part of their job. In addition, they spend nearly 25% of their time doing work that could (we would say should) be delegated to an administrative support position.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Manager effectiveness is very highly correlated with clarity of delegated accountability, and the degree to which managers “feel” they are accountable.
  • Over 1/3 of managers are not clear about what their managers hold them accountable for.
  • Only 1/3 of managers don’t feel they are in conflict situations in the workplace.
  • Organizational learning measures are very highly correlated to organization effectiveness.
  • Less than 1/3 of managers believe that the corporate performance management system works.
  • Less than 1/2 of managers are delegated clear objectives

How Would Your Organization Stack Up?

You don’t have to wait for the published journals. Participation in the Manager EffectivenessTM Survey is now available to any organization, in English or French, at a very reasonable price point. A 94-question confidential survey has been developed to gather data directly from managers, who can log on to a secure web site to provide their direct input on these measures. Traditional employee surveys require all employers to participate. With this survey, a CEO can get the results with an investment of 20 – 30 minutes of each manager’s time.

Email Dwight to discuss further.

Accountability Measure

The research shows that Accountability is very highly correlated with manager effectiveness. Accountability is at the heart of managerial leadership. It is important that employees have a clear understanding of what they are being held accountable for and how their outcomes will contribute to the success of their organization. Accountability is also correlated with team and organization effectiveness.

Accountability has two dimensions:

  1. Clarity of Accountability – the degree to which managers are clear about the accountability and authority that has been delegated to them. As an organizational measure, this means thinking about how well the organization can translate accountability for output from the strategic plan through the CEO down to each individual manager in the organization. This measure correlates highly with a managers’ perceived self-effectiveness.
  2. Felt Accountability – the degree to which managers feel they are accountable. Felt accountabilities can be related to being accountable to a manager for work, or it could be other things that are not real accountabilities, but feel like accountabilities, such as responsibilities to customers, to stakeholders, to peers, and so on.

To understand the disconnect, and how organizations have gone so wrong, it is important to realize that Accountability actually has two dimensions. First, what is the clarity of the accountability and authority that has been delegated to managers? For instance, if I am a manager, am I clear about not only what my manager is holding me accountable for, but also the authority I have for doing my work?

We call this the Clarity of Accountability dimension. As an organizational measure, this means thinking about how well the organization can translate accountability for output from the strategic plan, through the CEO, down to each individual manager in the organization. This measure correlates highly with a managers’ perceived self-effectiveness.

The second dimension of accountability is Felt Accountability. This concept has been written about in management sciences literature. It refers to the degree to which an individual feels he or she is accountable. It could be related to being accountable to a manager for work, or it could be other things that are not real accountabilities, but feel like accountabilities. Examples of Felt Accountability include:

  • relationships with customers
  • relationships with peers
  • project work
  • self-held beliefs

In all of these examples, these are not real accountabilities because managers are not held to account by a specified other that has the authority to hold them to account. Nevertheless, they can be quite distracting if the managers of managers do not take them into account when setting the context for doing work. Felt Accountability, interestingly, scores much higher than Clarity of Accountability.

This reinforces the perspective that people care about their work and want to do well.

 The question is not whether managers feel accountable. They do.

The question is whether they feel accountable for the right things. This is the manager’s job – to be clear about those things for which they will hold their subordinates to account.

Other Measures

A series of seven measures are correlated with Accountability in organizations. These are important to understand, as they provide the insight into root causes that can constrain or improve accountability in the workplace.

Workflow – The extent to which managers perceive work flowing smoothly across the organization. This measure assesses the extent to which managers perceive work flowing smoothly across the organization. If managers don’t understand their accountability and authority with respect to peers in other parts of the organization, they will gravitate towards “I’ll just do it myself – it’s easier”. Work tends to happen within distinct organizational units. If work does not flow smoothly across the organization, it can lead to misunderstandings and duplication of effort, both of which are counter to Manager Effectiveness. Fewer than 40% of managers surveyed felt that work flowed smoothly across their organizations.

Organizational Learning – The extent to which individuals in the organization learn from others, share, experiment and transfer knowledge. This measure describes the relationship between effective organizational learning with other organizational factors, and its direct impact on the effectiveness of managers. Organizations continually face challenges in managing their knowledge assets. To the extent that organizations are better at managing and transferring knowledge, one would expect that managers would be more effective. The data reinforces these concepts with high correlations between Organizational Learning and Clarity of Accountability, and a high correlation with Manager Effectiveness directly.
High degrees of organizational learning were correlated with high accountability.

Role Conflict – The degree of conflict that managers experience in their day to day work. This measure assesses the degree of conflict that managers experience in their day to day work. One would expect that in organizations where there is a lack of clarity of accountability, that there would be increased role conflict. The data did show this to be the case, as these two measures are very highly negatively correlated.
Role conflict was high; almost half of managers agreed with statements that described conflict situations

Corporate Systems – Providing support to managers for doing their work. Organizations have in place organization-wide systems that are intended to support employees in their work. These systems also have organizational objectives. For example, Finance must provide certain information to the Board and to the CEO in a timely way for the effective management and governance of the organization. Finance also provides support to employees, such as provision of expenditures against budgets, processing expense accounts, and so on. What often happens is that the systems that have been put in place, or should be put in place to support management don’t get the attention they deserve from the CEO and executive management. The balance between serving the organization and supporting the manager can become skewed, often to the point where managers see the support system as an overall burden instead of a support.
Managers almost universally feel that corporate systems do not provide the appropriate amount of support, and that they are skewed toward the organization as a whole rather than designed to support managers in their work.

Manager’s Manager Capability – The extent to which managers feel that their manager is capable. The immediate question one might ask is: What is the role of managers of managers? The CEO manages Vice Presidents, Vice Presidents manage Directors, and so on. In each of these cases, the manager of the managers would seem to have an important role in terms of the delegation of accountability to their subordinate managers. If a manager is not capable at doing her / his job, the subordinate manager is less likely to receive the clarity required to be effective at his / her job. Managers, in general, feel that their own managers are capable. Although there is room for improvement, this is positive. The managerial chain in organizations is critical to effective delegation. And as we have seen earlier in this report, clarity of accountability has significant room for improvement. If a manager is not capable at doing her / his job, the direct report manager is less likely to receive the Clarity of Accountability required to be effective at his / her job. Similarly, if the manager does not perceive that their manager is capable, they will not have the degree of Felt Accountability necessary for effectiveness.
High manager’s manager capability was correlated to high accountability.

Interdependence – How much managers depend on other managers in parts of the organization to do their work. Interdependence is a measure that explores the reliance of individuals on others, in other parts of the organization, for success in their work. Interdependence in and of itself isn’t a positive or a negative factor – it is an indicator of a certain state in organizations. Some organizations, by their nature, require a greater independence of their managerial workforce for production and delivery of products and services.
High interdependence indicates that managers rely highly on managers in other parts of the organization for success in their work..

Team and Organizational Effectiveness – The effectiveness of both teams and the organization as a whole.

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Copyright © 2018 - Dwight Mihalicz -Sage Effective Managers