This evening I had coffee with an old colleague who was, by all accounts, excelling in her current role. She was however extremely frustrated as she felt her department had no directions and was fast becoming irrelevant to the organization.
After probing, it became clear to me that the issue was one where senior, middle and junior managers were not performing their roles according to S, O and T (Strategic, Operational and Tactical).
Much like in the military, each manager has their distinctive roles in an organization. In operations, the Generals focus on the big picture and develop the plans (strategy), the Colonels execute the plan (operational) and the Majors and Captains fight the battles (tactical). A General does not assume command of a Battalion or Company to fight battles. Instead, the General’s role is to maintain an overwatch position, observe the battlespace, shape it with additional resources and, if necessary, adjust the plan. If the General chooses to neglect his role and do the job of the Battalion and Company Commanders, the Army will be defeated.
This is precisely the issue with my ex-colleague’s department. Instead of spending his time focused on the larger business environment and developing strategies and plans to succeed in the evolving market, the Director chooses to spend all his time fighting the tactical battles of drafting presentation slides, clearing non-critical emails and dealing with small value purchases — things that junior and middle managers were hired to do. Without his eye on the larger picture, it is inevitable that the Department will become irrelevant.
In short, organizations fail when managers do not perform the role they were hired to do. A Director, like a General, directs the department. The Director’s role is not to manage which is the role of the Managers. The Managers in turn ensure that the Executives do their jobs.