Work, people, results, pick one.

A person can do managing people, managing work (results), or doing work. Generally, combinations of those roles overload one person.

1) “Matrix” management with distinct people and work managers has been tried for years with varying success. I was my boss’s boss once. It worked well for us.
Now McKinsey are resurfacing it as “helix management”. As the expectations of people management increase (jobs customised to the individual, personalised development, welfare pastoral care, psychological safety…) I really think this separation is the future.

2) the worst thing you can do to an expert, a master of the work, is make them a manager. It requires quite different skills and drags them away from passing on the knowledge and advancing the work. Usually we only do it to them because that’s the only career path we have for them. And they always get sucked back into helping with the work on top of their day job.

3) the kind of person who is really good at getting a programme of work done is often not so good at caring for people.
In fact, the objectives of work and people management can be in conflict. The drive to get work done may not always be in the best interests of the people involved. It is not fair to make one individual manage this conflict.

4) The group a personnel manager cares for is not the same set as the group a work manager organises. People management and work management would divide the organisation up differently. The work groupings would be more dynamic that the people groupings.
In a perfect world, people would choose what they work on, and choose who looks after them.

5)  “Managing work” covers:

  • products and services
  • portfolios, programmes: collective backlogs of work
  • units of work with specified deliverables: projects, initiatives….
  • the functions of the organisation: Executive, Training, Finance, Facilities, Security, Audit, Information, IT…  The “necessary non-value work” to keep the rest going.

6) As well as being managed by a work manager and a people manager, a person is in a team.  Agile teams are self-organising, they don’t have a manager.

7) A person may also be in a guild, or chapter, or community of practice, or whatever you choose to call a group with common skills.

8) Managers are themselves employees doing work, so they too have a work manager and a people manager, and they are in teams and guilds. (A common deficiency of management “teams”, e.g. Senior Leadership Team,  is that they aren’t a team).