Introduction: Summary of the Article
Management and leadership are two interrelated issues. Both leaders and managers are humans and they cannot work without making mistakes. Business leaders and managers guide the business culture (Investors in People UK 13) this is why their influence on the company’s performance is great. Since they all “possess great power over projects, plans, and people” (Charan, Stephen, and Drotter 88), the responsibility for these mistakes is immense. Even though mistakes in leadership are often regarded as “a route for being more effective leaders” (Avolio 118), the leaders should also know how to avoid the most common mistakes. The article under consideration, Standardized Work for Executive Leadership by M.L. Emiliani is exactly about such mistakes; the author uses these mistakes as a “rationale for seeking to change how leaders perform some of their daily activities” (25). The article begins with identifying the most common mistakes that senior managers make; at this, the author considers financial and non-financial costs of such mistakes.
In addition, the author considers how the errors made by the senior managers are usually corrected. Together with this, the author gives explanations to such approaches of eliminating errors as application of Lean principles and the creation of standardized work. Paying attention to different elements of the standardized work, Emiliani explain business principles used by the leaders of such large corporations as General Electric, Toyota Motor, and Hewlett-Packard. The consideration of these companies’ performance allowed the author to built a model of standardized work for executives; the design of this model is expected to help in the elimination of the major errors that senior managers of such corporations make. The author comes to a conclusion that standards in the work of leaders and managers can help to improve the overall performance of the company once they are introduced.
Key Learning Points
There are three key learning points that can be identified in Emiliani’s article. First of all, every person is capable of making mistakes. There is much to learn within this learning point. It not only draws attention to the essence of human nature (that to err is human) (Porter-O’Grady and Malloch 158), but also allows appreciating the value of a human mistake. For instance, a mistake of a regular employee may be insignificant for the company’s performance. It may affect the work of a separate department that will be improved as soon as the mistake is discovered. Just like regular employees, managers and leaders also make mistakes (Finzel 15). The mistakes of the leaders, however, not only erode the effectiveness of leadership (DuBrin 36), but can affect the performance of the entire company.
Another learning point is that standardized work is a key to the continuous improvement. While standardization is considered in terms of company’s performance in the article, the knowledge about it can be applied in every sphere of human activities. Standardization of any process can make the carrying out of this process more efficient and, what is the most important, less cost-taking (Hunter 39). Introducing standards even into the most primitive process can make this process easier. The change of these standards, in its turn, will only improve this process.
The final key learning point is that it is better to eliminate errors than to look for those who are responsible for them. For instance, Emiliani states that most of the leaders “blame other people or external conditions or events for having caused the errors” (31). It seems that this takes much more time and resources than the attempts to eliminate these mistakes. The primary objective of an effective leader is to eliminate the mistake first and only then to start looking for the one who should be held responsible for this mistake.
Statements from the Article
There are three statements in this article that have attracted my special attention; I totally agree with two of these sentences and I found certain contradictions within another one. The first statement that I definitely agree with is that “Decision-making processes that lack standards can be inefficient and costly” (Emiliani 25). Decision-making processes are extremely complex. They consist of a variety of actions. For instance, any decision-making process consists of “problem solving, or planning, or organizing, and is sometimes extended to include all aspects of thinking and acting” (Cooper and Cooper 46). If all these constituents are standardized, the decision-making processes will be more effective and, correspondingly, less costly.
One more statement that I agree with is “Standardized work, once established, is the object of continuous improvement” (Emiliani 39). If the work of the company is limited by definite standards, all the employees and leaders have stable rates of performance. When the standards are modified, the performance of the company in general can either improve or worsen. This depends on the kind of modifications that will be introduced. In any way, as soon as the standards are set and later modified, the changes in the company’s performance will never stop taking place. Since introducing non-beneficial changes into the existing standards is senseless, standardization can indeed lead to continuous improvement.
There are no sentences that I could disagree with, but there is one that seems contradictory to me. For instance, Emiliani states that “the leaders who commit … errors change over time, but occasionally errors are committed repetitively by the same leaders in the same or different organizations” (26). Taking into consideration the idea that all the leaders have a definite set of activities to do, it can be stated that certain processes in their work are standardized. Since they make the same errors, they act according to one and the same scheme, which means that certain level of standardization still exists in their work. This idea, however, is denied in the article
Critical Analysis of the Article
The study presented in the article under analysis is based on the responses of working students who share their ideas about their companies’ performance. In particular, the work of the leaders is what the researcher is interested in. As it was already mentioned above, the study is based on the students’ reflections about the performance of three large corporations: General Electric, Toyota Motor, and Hewlett-Packard. Since this is a qualitative study, descriptive methods of the information analysis are used. First, the author obtains the data from the respondents and then, using the deductive reasoning, interprets and analyzes these data. The analysis of the corporations’ cases is based on the documentation that is available about them. In general, if the company’s processes are well-documented, this means that they are standardized (Prahalad 221). Among the three companies considered, Toyota had the most detailed documentation about the company’s performance.
In the course of writing the article, the author identified three main elements of standardized work. The author is quite accurate in the presentation of his findings and ideas. Right after offering a standardized definition of leadership, the author presents three main elements of the standardized work. Here, however, some inaccuracies may be noticed. While the second and the third elements are clearly identified (they are business principles used by the leaders and a standard set of skills, respectively) and further exemplified, the first element is rather vague. It is presented in a form of a definition and is followed by a brief explanation after which the author proceeds to presenting the second element at once. In general, however, the article produces a good impression. It is well-organized and the author’s flow of ideas is quite logical. The summary presented at the end of the article facilitates the comprehension of the researcher’s findings.
Using the Subject Matter of the Article
The subject matter of this article can be applied in any business context. This article contains valuable information not only regarding the mistakes that senior managers make in their work, but regarding the ways to avoid and eliminate these mistakes. In addition, it presents a bright picture of what the work of a leader involves. This information, as well as a number of other facts mentioned in the article, can be easily used in practice.
As far as a real case from the UAE is concerned, the application of the subject matter of this article is also possible. However, this does not mean that the information presented in the article under analysis will be sufficient to eliminate the errors of the senior manager of a UAE company. Practically, the subject matter could be used to improve the overall performance of a UAE corporation. Let us assume that this corporation seeks for continuous development, but achieving it seems possible only if the range of its products is diversified. An alternative in this situation will be introducing the standardized work for leadership. This will not only organize the work within the company; standardized work of leadership will save the company some costs. Though the process of standardization is going to require certain expenses, they will definitely pay off with time. Besides, spending money for standardization will be a great investment into continuous development of the company.
Any UAE company needs a leader who knows much about standardized work for leaders. The UAE is in the list of countries that have the fastest growing economies in the world (Sabilion 47) this is why its companies and organizations have to use only the best methods of development. Standardized work of leaders is a key to the country’s success in business.
There is much I have learnt when writing this report and analyzing Emiliani’s article. I have significantly enriched my knowledge about leadership and management; in particular, I have discovered the complexities of the work of a senior manager and now I will be more prepared if I ever become one. Besides, I have found some useful information about the errors that senior managers make, and the additional research made for this report helped me to find out not only which errors a senior manager can make, but how to eliminate these errors, and what to pay attention to first of all when trying to eliminate them.
Avolio, Bruce J. Leadership Development in Balance: Made/Born. London and New York: Routledge, 2005.
Charan, Ram, Drotter, Stephen, and Noel, James L. The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership-Powered Company. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2001.
Cooper, David and Cooper, David J. Leadership for Follower Commitment. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2003.
DuBrin, Andrew J. Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills. London: Cengage Learning, 2009.
Emiliani, M.L. “Standardized Wok for Executive Leadership.” Leadership & Organization Development Journal 29.1 (2008): 24-46. Print.
Finzel, Hans. The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007.
Hunter, Robert D. Standards, Conformity Assessment, and Accreditation for Engineers. London: CRC Press, 2009.
Investors in People UK. Business Improvement With Investors in People: Leadership and Management Handbook. London: The Stationery Office, 2006.
O’Grady Timothy and Malloch, Kathy. Quantum Leadership: A Textbook of New Leadership. London: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2003.
Prahalad, C.K. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits. New Jersey: FT Press, 2009.
Sabilion, Carlos. World Economic Historical Statistics. New York: Algora Publishing, 2005.