Friday, October 1, 2010

Won't Work Without Management Support!?

Plain and simple: "In order for this to work, you need management support" is bogus. "It's not going anywhere because we don't have management support" is just an excuse and a way to blame someone else for a lack of the right effort. Most of the time, people don't recognize management support when they get it. Many times they haven't asked management for specific support, other than an approval. Frequently, the only support you may get from management is the "talk" without the "walk" anyway. Additionally, there's no reason to wait for some generic, ethereal aura of "management support".

I've been in organizations and talked to teams in other organizations where people complained they weren't getting management support. While working with those teams, I discovered that they didn't recognize the management support they were getting. Specific examples included the education and training they were receiving at that moment, the ability to collaborate with other teams, access to subject experts related to their project, and investments in equipment, tools or materials (educational, consumable and inventory). Yet they blamed a lack of success on a lack of management support. What were they expecting? Management visibility and accessibility were two expectations that weren't met. Many of the teams did not get 100% approval of their plans. Probably one factor that created the perception of non-support was a lack of feedback that certain elements weren't approved because management had higher priorities for the resources. Other teams weren't recognized for their efforts and early partial successes; they concluded that management didn't support them.

I have also witnessed teams fail to achieve substantial results even though they received promotional support for their efforts, had accessibility to management and management was visible to the teams. They didn't look at their own performance gaps: poor team dynamics, lack of comprehension of the processes, the system elements and how they integrate and need to be aligned, the factors that create variability, cross-functional and organization-wide communication of upcoming changes, overcoming resistance to change, and so on. When their work ended without success, they talked about one failing of management that led to their downfall. Those intrinsic parameters of the team's effort led to their failure more than a perceived lack of management support.

Can teams succeed without management support? Of course, 90% of performance improvement requires little investment beyond time to evaluate the obstacles and collaborating to plan and implement a few changes. It's possible to get education without spending a lot of money--access to information and experts through the internet, e.g. and access to subject matter experts from current and potential suppliers, e.g. With a little bit of communication and networking internally, teams can get other help as needed.

Most of the management support you want is that the corporate culture encourages collaboration, decision-making opportunities (choice) around your own work and the opportunity to figure out how the work should be done (content). Whether management espouses these values or not, find ways to make collaboration happen with the idea that the work processes will change for the better.


  1. Insightful a professional who sifts through large volumes of raw information for government reports, it is difficult to provide analysis juxtaposing short term trends in the context of megatrends merely for the fact that decision-makers are concerned about the short term effects/results of their plan or strategy. Hopefully, CEOs take the long-term view.

  2. I appreciate your comments, Anonymous, more related to "A Screwed Up Life" posting about data. In fact, today the news analysts have been going haywire on the fact that unemployment claims went up this week...for the first time in 3 weeks. I wish more people would understand that each week, data like this is going to go up or go down, that it's not a significant trend unless you have 6-8 weeks decreasing continuously. It's like flipping a coin. You will get heads (the result goes up) or you will get tails (the result goes down). The odds of getting 6 or 8 heads in a row is very low. Unfortunately, many CEO's don't understand this any better. They want reasons why this month's profits were lower than last month's. "Normal variation" is not an acceptable answer for many of them.