Good managers are usually barely noticeable, while bad managers are impossible to miss. This fact has long been known by those in the awkward position of being about to make the jump between the work-force and management when those who do the ‘real’ work are brought up short by the discovery of deficiencies in lower and middle management.
It is especially noticeable in small and medium scale enterprises, where management tends to have morphed from being a sole-trading entrepreneur to small-scale businessman: becoming so successful in this venture that the next logical step is to expand the business, opening up management-level positions and making complete the transformation from small, personal enterprise to fully fledged business.
These entrepreneurial managers are so accustomed to handling every aspect of the business that it can be very difficult for them to learn to delegate: they are accustomed to clinging to control of their ‘baby. However, this can turn into micro-managing every aspect of work which, while understandable, holds the company back from achieving its full potential.
A recent study, undertaken by Professor James Hayton, of Warwick Business School, has produced a report on Leadership and Management Skills in SMEs: Measuring Associations with Management Practices and Performance, identified this worrying trend. He said that his study, which looked at some 2,500 English SMEs, found a ‘long tail’ of poor management practises, or at best, a lot of businesses not following best practise management processes.
Professor Hayton examined a number of management traits comparing entrepreneurship skills with leadership and management skills, looking at the implementation of best practise management advice, and seeing how this impacts on three areas of any business: turnover, employment growth and productivity. This reflected poorly on SMEs that had recently rapidly grown from a one-person concern.
However, Professor Hayton made clear that this lack of management success is not due to deliberate actions: instead it is an un-considered side effect of the way the business has grown, under the management of the entrepreneur whose main focus is on the product or service that forms the backbone of the business, rather than the minutiae of admin and management that soon becomes a need of a growing business.