Managers and the Paradoxes they Face in their Positions

Introduction

Leadership is demanding. It requires consistency and humility to manage consistently. However, managers face profoundly difficult situations when playing their roles. These difficulties are referred to as paradoxes. Organizations require stewardship to perform. Management is the core process that brings performance in organizations. The problems faced in management are diverse. They require rationale to resolve. Often, managers find themselves torn between various ethics of management including ethical dilemmas. The need to identify and resolve these management problems has become important. These paradoxes of management can be dealt with through understanding how they gradually emerge, spread and establish themselves. Another way of resolving these paradoxes is through evaluating an organization structure and using management concepts to identify ways to approach these paradoxes.

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The various paradoxes faced by managers and company heads include the following;

  • Holism versus reduction
  • Innovation versus stability
  • Generalization versus specialization
  • Flexibility versus discipline
  • Long-term versus short and medium term goals

This paper explores how managers face various management paradoxes and how they go about resolving them. The paper is a comprehensive expose about the experiences of organization leaders. The paper explores how these managers have steered their companies to success in spite of these paradoxes.

Holism versus reduction

Manager often fail to view organizations like a complex system that interacts from inside. The context of holism has plagued organizations leadership. Understanding holism has been a profoundly difficult part for business managers and corporate executives. ‘We have been unable to look at organizations as our responsibility. Instead, we manage companies as if they are our properties.’

Successful managers have been able to balance the management paradoxes. They have been able to understand the role of paradoxes in management and steered the organization to performance and consistency in productivity. The core roles of a manager are to lead, motivate, plan, organize and control the organization (Prit in Management, 2008, Gomez-, Luis, Balkin, Cardy, 2008). Comprehensively carrying out these roles leads to successful business processes. However, business processes are dynamic. They keep changing due to economic weather and other drivers.

Holism in management is the opposite of reductionism. Managers need to identify with the organization structure. He should view the proponents of the company as more important than the company itself.

Managers should realize that, the failures experienced in coordination and control of business processes, employee morale and dismal productivity are because of misconception of management paradoxes. The concept of holism helps the manager to look at a company or the organization as a system. He establishes coordination, enforces organization and motivates the organization to performance (Prit in Management, 2008).

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An example of holistic policies at work is a situation whereby, a manager worked hard to establish a rationale of teamwork. His mission was to have the organization perform and earn more revenue (Craig, 2009). He saw his goals being paramount than how the implementation stages were handled. Employees struggled through the changing business process, worked hard to meet targets benchmarked and strained to be part of the team the boss had incepted. Unfortunately, nothing came of this effort. Employees were demoralized and the company began facing serious business storms (Barrett, 2009).

What the manager failed to do was to look at the organizations as a system. The manager should see the company as a system. He hardly evaluated the consequences of his decisions on the organization. He overlooked how productivity, efficiency, effectiveness, and ethics. His actions affected the organization and the stakeholders’ confidence. The concept of reductionism is the opposite of this.

Innovation versus stability

The task of coordinating and delegating implementation of business processes is challenging. The context of innovation and stability in a corporation is one of the most sensitive issues in management. The objective of management is to foster growth and development. Corporate executives are tasked with the responsibility of innovating and expansion of corporations through business process platforms. Innovation remains a core process that foresees expansion and development of business. However, these business development and expansion processes can negatively affect the stability of an organization. Stability is an important to companies; it is a symbol of consistency in growth and development of a company (Kotter et al, 2002).

Managers have found themselves in difficult spots after investing heavily on expansion through innovation. These innovation rather than creating avenues of earning revenue for the organization become cash suckers. They eat into budgets, keep asking for more money to support them and eventually cause fiscal constraints to the organization. The intended growth and development turns out to be a source of instability.

A manager reputed for his skill set was managing a rapid expansion program of his listed company. This financial services company expansion program was a high priority. He made sure the media hardly had an idea about it. The manager exerted pressure to foster rapid expansion. The expansion process was based on smart innovation. He had come up with some products, which he deemed attractive to consumers.

New branches were opened to meet consumer demand. Unfortunately staffing became a burden to the company forcing it to borrow heavily to manage hiring and keeping a staff in the new branches. In a way, the media chanced to know of this financial constraint (Lock, 2007). They extensively covered the story in bulletins. The company stocks became unstable and lost 25% value in a week. Consumers began going slow on the products. The company became unstable.

This exemplifies the dangers of innovation if managerial skills fail to identify looming business storms. In most cases, innovation for innovation sake brings unnecessary instability as in the case above. Two, this case is a clear example of how innovation can result into industrial instability.

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Innovation stability is a paradox for managers. A manager should balance the two-management concept to achieve consistency in business processes carried out by his organization. The concept of innovation should only be viewed as part of company growth but not a source of corporate instability as explained in the case above. Managers who are able to use innovation as an element of competitive weapon will succeed in product development, and in business development programs, they innovate. In business development, the role of a manager is to pursue sustainable innovations that produce minimum instability.

In this context, company stability has become important than innovation. Stability is credited for keeping stocks stronger and stable in bad financial weather. Managers view this as far much better than expansion, which eats into the company revenue leading to instability. Innovations if not carefully implemented expose the organization to business storms. It erodes organizations insulations against impending business storms. However, stability of the company should not be used just for stability alone; stability should be defined as a moderate business process strategy aimed at strategic development.

A corporate executive who was a classmate was determine to keep his company stable as long as the stocks did not scintillate to economic weather. His insatiable thirst for the stocks kept his company in its incubation shell for years. The business process solutions platforms company services were very popular with multinationals and midsized firms. They kept buying from him. The demand was greater than the supply. He had to restructure his service provision program. This pitted many of his corporate clients in queues, which they loathed. However, Manning had no idea that his weakness about stability was observed by another classmate who was humbled at the long list of clients waiting for Manning’s service. This classmate launched a similar company. His was a smart incentive, he had enough staff, modern equipment to facilitate speedy delivery and an outsourcing platform incase he was overwhelmed. In a month, he had captured 40% of Manning’s clientele. Manning’s profitability declined by 40% and his shares in the stock market lost substantially. Stability should not stagnate business development. It should initiate strategic business development. It should allow expansion through innovation (Thomas & Scott, 2008, Prit in Management, 2008, Gomez-, Luis, Balkin, Cardy, 2008). Management is about how innovation and stability can remain core business process that drives the company to greater profitability.

Generalization versus specialization

An online company owned by a friend, lately embarked on expansion. The online news company developed a smart online advertising platform. The objective was to advertise niche products to millions of users weekly. Many advertisers were inspired by Online News Corp advertising platform. Online News Corp was a business process and product news specialist with an appeal to five million mid sized firm’s executives. These readers loved the special news and features about trends, development, innovations and business processes found only in this company. This was what gave Online News Corp advantage, kept competitors at bay and gave it a business edge. However, the new advertising platform required changes on the specialization concept. Steve, the CEO wanted Online News Corp to be a general news company so that it could appeal to more users, two, he wanted the advertising platform to succeed through a general product outlook than the specialist profile of the company.

In merely two weeks after the launch of the smart advertising platform, Online News Corp was boasting of 7 million visitors and increased revenue. Advertisers scrambled for slots on the portal. However, the change in coverage did not go down well with the traditional readers. They stopped reading and subscribing to Online News Corp since it no longer catered for the interests as it used to. It was too general and un-original. A month later, Steve was shocked by the audit team, advertising revenue had taken a steady dive and traditional adverts placed by ad publishers like Google, Yahoo, Chitika and Adbrite were making less than 50% of what they used to earn. Steve was shocked. He order an inquest and the report pitted his generalization approach on the spot. Traditional readers had dived when the general news was introduced and they hated the many advertisements and banner ads on the portal. Online News Corp began restructuring in an effort to go back to specialization.

This is a clear example of how specializing drives a company to a steady growth while generalizing pits the company in a path of dynamic business processes that cannot bring consistent financial profitability and long-term revenue avenues. Steve management skills are in question here. A manager requires skill sets. He/ she should be able to understand how to model change and manage the change (Lock, 2007, Prit in Management, 2008, Gomez-, Luis, Balkin, Cardy, 2008). Concisely, a manager is supposed to have knowledge and abilities in technology, people skills, organization abilities, planning skills, strategic planning and thinking ability, good decision-making skills, accounting and leadership skills (Thomas & Scott, 2008, ). These skills help the manager to perform and carry out his functions of management successfully.

A specialist is able to organize, account, lead and manage a business process successfully. His capacity helps him make decisions, correct arising conflicts and resolve possible errors in financial planning, product development and other core business process he is managing. General management ability has its advantages too. The manager is able to look at business processes using a wider scope than a specialist does. He can identify various opportunities fit for the business model he is managing and organize, plan, lead and manage these innovations quite successfully.

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The paradox of generalization and specialization is however based on the business model in question. Managers of companies dealing with select services or products should carefully evaluate how they generalize their products, expand and develop new products and services. However, firms that specialize on a wide range of services and products can easily expand and create more products and services. What they need is to hire staff to manage the new business incentives and business processes involved.

A financial services company can diversify easily. They company can create products that can do well easily. However, a financial services consultancy firm cannot diversify to general practice since it will confuse the clientele on what it specializes in. A manager should be able to manage change and account its overall long-term life span.

A manager working in a specific department in the company where a special knowledge is required, the manager has to have the skills required here, i.e. accounting skills, financial planning and people skills. However, he will not need strategic thinking and planning skills. This context of specializing is seen as a more important skill set than general management skills. Two, we are able to identify how a managers skills and position in the company affects the role of specialization and generalization. However, specialist managers will have limited career options in comparison to general manager (Cardy et al, 2008, Kotter et al, 2002, Lock, 2007,Prit in Management, 2008).

Generalization however has its advantages. The degree of generalization as opposed to specialization varies. The variance observed depends on the management position whereby tasks of the manager, organization diversity, organization culture, management philosophies in top management echelons dynamic and static environment, tasks and knowledge levels in the organization.

Able managers are able to identify the paradoxes between generalization and specialization in their disciplines. These managers travail to balance the two to maximize company productivity, stability and growth.

Flexibility versus discipline

Managers are often faced by the ethical dilemmas of flexibility and discipline. Flexibility in management is given preference since it is a sign of independence and ability to easily propel an organization through storms. As observed from specialization and generalization context, a manager with the ability to have general management practice is able to tap into various opportunities. However, this could come crumbling down on him if his management abilities lie in the specialty bracket. General management practices show that a manager can easily cope, introduce and manage a business process, but a specialist will have to deal with the confines of select business process (Cardy, 2008, Gomez-, Luis, Balkin, Kotter et al, 2002, Lock, 2007,Prit in Management, 2008).

Flexibility allows a business manager adapt new business processes into existing ones. He is able to create new revenue earning strategies easily, manage change in the organization, manage and coordinate business processes in the organization effectively and dynamically approach changes in his company’s business sector. Flexibility is a skill that many managers lack. Most of them adopt the discipline approach, which withholds their dynamism in achieving goals they set.

A manager should be aware of his role, which is defined as leadership. Leadership is a dynamic process in an organization whereby one individual influences the others, steers the affairs of this organization (Cardy, 2008, Kotter et al, 2002, Lock, 2007,Prit in Management, 2008). Discipline in leadership constrains business process since disciplined managers will not adopt new changes, which come up because of changing business weather. Disciplined managers will stick to strategic plans and revenue programs and disregard arising corporate weather. Often this static approach wears off a corporation’s insulation against impending financial and corporate storms. In comparison to a flexible approach to management, discipline alienates a manager from his officers. He wants the discipline act to be conformed to throughout the system. However, in modern corporations, market research, employee productivity and consumer retention remains core priorities of the managers.

‘I hardly spend time examining how the employees dress or the company dressing code. I allow employees to dress the way they want as far as they are productive and conform to the working guidelines. In marketing, I hardly delegate who should be approached or sold to. It is the role of the marketer to bring the company business. This concept allows me to do market research and identify better marketing strategies and passing my findings to the employees for implementation. ‘Michael Joseph, CEO Safaricom Kenya explained of his management style. Since his tenure, the regional mobile telephony services provider has made immense profits and remained the regional leader in the sector. The company is ranked as one of the most successful corporations n Africa.

The stakeholders for his discipline and commitment to the company business processes loved Joe, a manager with a business outsourcing Solutions Company. He was content about maintaining traditional business process and relationship with the company clients. His approach to leadership was that, ‘he was an appointed leader and his style had to follow the bureaucratic authority’ that appointed him. His zeal wore of the companies’ insulation against competition. The company was not ready to adopt new technology, innovations, expansion, consumer retention stratagems and business process platforms. This led to Joes outsourcing Solutions Company to miss opportunities since it lacked core platforms to conducts such business processes. Traditional corporate clients began pulling out of contracts and sought similar services in companies that had adapted new technologies. These technologies were credited with simplifying tasks, producing timely and quality results. Joe had to seek audience with the directors and stakeholders to discuss how they had to implement new technologies and business platforms that would appeal to the existing clients and potential ones. If Joe was a dynamic leader who was flexible enough to embrace change, he could have avoided this business downturn and instead work hard on market research, consumer retention and advancing company technology. What Joe was avoiding was to embrace the chaos theory approach however; he faced a backlash for the decline in the company profitability and missing technologies that could have placed the company in good stead. Managers should be able to balance discipline and flexibility. While flexibility stands for a dynamic approach to business development, discipline is a conservative approach to management, which scintillates to bureaucratic authority that has appointed this organizations leadership. Flexibility exposes the organization to opportunities and steers the company through latest trends and developments in business. This keeps the company at per with smart innovations, technologies and core business process platforms hence never missing out on business opportunities that depend on such platforms (Kotter et al, 2002, Lock, 2007,Prit in Management, 2008).

Long-term versus short and medium term goals

The paradox of long-term goals against short-term goals has led to the exit of managers from their plum jobs. In fact, the global fiscal crunch was because of lack of insulation against impeding business storms due to managers adopting short-term revenue strategies and discarding long-term goals. The short-term business venture only befits the company books; however, it does not add value to the stability of the company. Stakeholders find such mistakes by company heads as stupid and a lack of insight and providence.

Assuming your company earns significant revenue from short-term projects, the implication on your company repute is short-term too. The truly profound is that, the stability of an organization depends solely on how long the business processes have been in existence, how stable the revenue has been and the future of the organization in the business process it engages in. These are the foundations of long-term stability of a company.

Hanson, former colleges mate left an insurance firm to manage a new telecoms company. The company was keen to establish itself as a force to reckon with in the telecoms industry in the region. Hanson’s role as the CEO of Goldcom was to steer the company through its initial days as a newly established company to a key business leader. An experienced CEO, Hanson worked hard on establishing long-term business processes that could insulate the company and its profitability. In what is a successful management story, Hanson was able to tap into the market through unique business platforms that appealed to consumers, retailers and wholesalers. He established partnership programs, long-term revenue share programs and affiliate programs. The programs paid off handsomely. Hanson presented his fiscal projections to the board and explained to them how for the next 25 years Goldcom would never worry about seeking new marketing avenues but would only improve on the existing ones. He also explained how this gave the company an opportunity to explore better marketing strategies and market research, which would play a significant role in expansion and increasing profitability. Such an approach insulates the company against financial storms and bad business weather. This model bars business downturns and shuts down windows of corporate lackluster.

However, many managers adopt short-term goals approach to pile capital and revenue. These leaders are reputed for their cutthroat business strategies and ability to seal deals and make millions of dollars in weeks and months. Unfortunately, this does not add up as a stability driver since when poor business weather arises, many business downturns arise. Such a company is forced to lay off workers, cut costs on business process and spend a lot on marketing its services and products unlike the model discussed above.

Simon & Hester, a midsized marketing and business solutions firm hired a CEO to run the company. Lawrence was a sharp and well-educated executive. He was used on making deals, quick concessions and short-term revenue earning plans were his specialty. Simon & Hester needed such expertise desperately to make money to offset a huge bank loan. They hired Lawrence on merit. Lawrence was able to make $3million and the company debt was cleared. What remained was to keep the company afloat; unfortunately, Lawrence had exhausted all his avenues of making quick deals that would bring huge chunks of money. The company had to fire him since they needed someone who could steer the company towards long-term profitability.

Leaders should be able to avoid paradoxes ethical dilemmas by balancing the two to make the most of them. While short-term business process might be profitable, long-term plans bring insulations and consistency in business processes, revenue streams and consumer retention (Prit in Management, 2008). If the two can be used together, the company profitability would increase.

Conclusion

Management paradoxes are not barriers but important aspects of management. Balancing them and comprehensively using leadership skills to manage corporations yields positive results in management. Paradoxes provide ethical options for managers. These options are guidelines meant to provide insight about leadership in organizations.

References

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Kotter, John & Cohen. (2002). The Heart of Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.

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Lock, Dennis (2007). Project Management. New York: Gower Publishing Ltd

Thomas, S & Scott A, S (2008). Management: Leading & Collaborating in the Competitive World. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin

Prit in Management, (2009). Holism and Reductionism in Management. Web.

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