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7 In-office Management Principles That MBA Didn’t Teach You

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Summary

  • After securing your MBA, the next step is to learn the practical management skills that companies look for.
  • Your management journey is incomplete without imbibing the real world, nuanced, workplace principles.
  • What to do when your efforts fail and how to set goals that actually make sense – learn everything that MBA didn’t teach you, in this article.

1 in 3 projects will fail due to mismanagement, but it doesn’t have to be the case with you. Manage using ProofHub and deliver projects successfully.    

MBAs from top schools hardly go out of demand. Even as economies fight back the Covid-19 churn, management professionals will have some bright spots reserved for them. But if you’re going to land a manager’s job in 2021, be ready to be surprised. Because you’re going to come across management principles that MBA didn’t teach you.

Today we are in the middle of a receding pandemic, changing work habits, and more millennials entering the workforce than ever. CNBC reports that 28% of millennials now occupy management positions. Consequently, the art of managing people will undergo its due changes.

It doesn’t mean that Fayol’s 14 principles of management are obsolete or that your intensive Market Research training was in vain, but you will need to align your beliefs for management success in this “brave new management world.”

Let’s see what all the millennial managers need to imbibe, and how old-school veterans can gear up for this generational shift.

Digital Native-ism 

96% of 18-29 agers own smartphones that come loaded with all kinds of workplace facilitation apps.

“I’ll ping you on Slack once this is done” is a phrase that is thrown around more than “What’s your email ID?” these days.

Managers no longer curate lengthy Excel sheets or rely on slow email follow-ups. It’s all real-time and deeply connected, regardless of the physical location of the team members.

If you’re a Marketing Manager, you’ll need to pull data from SEMRush. If you’re handling a software team, GitHub is imperative and similarly, most teams require a digital management portal such as ProofHub to get things done.

Therefore, we know for sure that;

  • Managers will need to brush up on their software skills and be good at multiple software tools at once.
  • Understand how software tools impact their business, and at times, preemptively choose software tools for minimum friction.

But should you be a Digital Native Manager because it’s fashionable? No! It’s because businesses rely heavily on digital tools for coping with inefficiencies.

A PMI study found out how incorporating digital skills impacted organizations in contrast to the ones who didn’t. The following comparison shows that the digital native organizations (PMTQ Innovators) were one step ahead in terms of Project time, budget, intent, waste mitigation, and scope creep from organizations who didn’t adopt these skills (PMTQ Laggards).

Project Performance Metrics

It’s quite understandable that it’ll be difficult to be a manager who doesn’t get along with the digital nativism taking over every sector and industry today.

Already software savvy? Now get management savvy! Start using ProofHub – it’s free

Building Connected Workspaces 

Pick up any article on Top Management Skills, and you’ll find “Effective Communication” enlisted in most of them.

The same goes for MBA syllabi – Business Communication is easily one of the top-ranking MBA subjects.

But when put to practice, and my peers will agree to this – communication is the first thing that goes wrong.

Apparently, 80% of employees get trapped in the vicious “rework” cycle, which takes away 50% of their time because of poor communication.

Furthermore, at least 59% of US-based workers have reported that communication is their biggest hassle. Another study backs this claim wherein 31% of companies report miscommunication to be the #1 reason for project failure.

Pandemic-induced remote work and an overall shift towards distributed work environments will only amplify communication issues. If you’ve managed a remote team, you’d already know this.

As a manager, you’ll be expected to control the flow and quality of communication at your workplace to great extents. There are many solutions to this problem but one that stands out requires building highly connected workspaces.

From a managerial perspective, a connected workplace has the following core ingredients;

  • Easy to use team communication tools available to all employees
  • Sufficient modes of real-time and asynchronous communication
  • Psychological safety – employees feel free and confident to share ideas and opinions
  • Collaboration freedom – team members can work in tandem with each other to achieve common objectives without friction

Core Ingredients of Connected Workplaces

RequirementHow to facilitate?
Easy to use communication toolsInvest in team communication tools

Modes of Real-time CommunicationTelephony and Video Conferencing Software

Modes of Asynchronous CommunicationChat and Project Communication Software

Psychological Safety
  • Building an open workspace where speaking about views, opinions, and ideas isn’t penalized
Collaboration Freedom

By building connected workplaces, you’re strengthening three things – workplace communication, work engagement, and team productivity. One influences the other.

Effective workplace communication

Fail Without Hate

As someone in the management position, the pressure to succeed is surmounting, to say the least.

Quite simply because all that MBA has prepared you for is – success. The degree ushers you into a world where people are part of the 5 AM Club and make friends with the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari.

The focus is on success and the people who have attained it. This is why the room for failure gets smaller and smaller, to the point where you may feel that it doesn’t exist. Ironically, “Failure Management” is part of the management principles that MBA didn’t teach you.

TEDx speaker and leadership expert, Vanesa Loder, wrote in her Forbes article,

“Learning how to fail without hating yourself in the process is probably the best business skill anyone could ever learn, in addition to being one of the most important life skills.” 

I personally believe that the current crop of managers will be up against this challenge. Right from competitive company environments to cutthroat startup ecosystems, failure is one thing that managers will need to be more educated about.

Quoting the former American President, Barack H. Obama,

“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way. The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.

The takeaway is that failure is inevitable. It, however, shouldn’t stop you from trying and discover your true unique self.

Goal Setting 

Goal setting is probably the hardest, most complex lesson that you will ever learn at the manager’s seat.

It’s hard because it takes a deep understanding of your team’s capabilities and the requirements posed by the business.

Improper goal setting sends your team and project into a spiraling uncertainty of “How much is to be achieved?” and “Are we achieving the required goals?”

This is because proper goal setting sets the pace at which the team will hit targets. The targets define the effort investment. The effort calculation dictates the work requirements, which further generates the set of tasks that each individual will achieve.

Therefore, if the goals are too challenging, the team will burn out whereas if the goals are too achievable, the business requirements may get left behind. Then there’s always the risk of demotivating your team members with menial tasks that no one is happy completing.

Thankfully, the modern management landscape offers several ways to be smart with goal setting. Take ProofHub’s productivity reports for an example. You can make data-driven estimations about your team’s productivity and task efficiency, rather than making guesses.

ProofHub Project Report

ProofHub has got everything that’ll help you set and achieve your #ManagementGoals. Try it now! 

You have a grip on important metrics such as overdue tasks and completed tasks in regards to the project timeline., which can be used to set goals with better insights.

For instance, if your deadline is at the end of the month and middle of the month you realize that 50% of the tasks are overdue, the team needs to buckle up.

Therefore, being a manager, you can set realistic goals that take both your team’s capabilities and business needs, into account. Another one of the management principles that MBA didn’t teach you.

Automation 

Once you have gained software skills and have built a communication-friendly workspace, it’s time to automate!

Automation is the real edge that will set apart any millennial manager from the crowd. Smart managers use innovative techniques to automate little tasks that soak up precious work hours.

In essence, I am referring to the third quadrant of the Eisenhower Priority Matrix.

Eisenhower Priority Matrix

All the tasks that are not that important and don’t require much effort can be quickly automated. This could be anything from building customized reports that you use every day or sending out repetitive emails.

Sadly, Automation Skills don’t make it to the MBA curriculum. It’s a workspace skill that is in high demand and one that will make you great at time management.

In ProofHub, we realized this pretty quickly. Therefore, there are several automation features available for managers to reduce task overload.

Automatic reminder

The Automatic Reminders feature is like an alarm clock for important deadlines. You don’t have to set a new one for each deadline, you can automate that bit. This ensures you’re reminded of an approaching deadline and reduces manual configuration effort.

recurring tasks and events

Similarly, if you send out invoices every Thursday, just make a recurring task in ProofHub. You don’t need to do it every week. The same automation can be applied to daily report calls, weekly feedback sessions, and monthly performance reviews.

Data Skills 

Let me quote this 2019 Harvard Business School article verbatim;

“Though intuition can be a helpful tool, it would be a mistake to base all decisions around a mere gut feeling.”

You already have an idea of what I am talking about – decision-making. Apparently, nearly 50% of Americans use their “gut feeling” to develop notions even when there’s contradictory statistical evidence.

Are you doing the same with your project decisions? Do you go with your intuition when it comes to estimating project scope? Do you prioritize tasks based on what seems important?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes”, you need data skills. On the contrary, this is something that an MBA already has trained you on. Managers admire number-crunching and statistical modeling, but somehow they miss out on using this knowledge in management decisions.

A data-driven manager is like a sword-wielding warrior who knows how to slash project uncertainties in half. Their decisions prove to be “right” more often than not and they better understand the nerve of the business.

Google’s Project Oxygen

Project Oxygen is a classic example of using data to cultivate better management skills.

Google culled data from 10,000 managerial performance reviews to figure out the traits that were common among high-performing managers. Then they used these traits in their management training programs to develop similar competencies.

This resulted in the managers’ median favorability scores from 83% to 88%.

Now, Google could have done this by asking several of their employees about the traits they want to see in their managers. But they chose to do it in a deeply scientific way, which is more data-based and less opinion-based.

Here’s another example of data in action at ProofHub. It presents you with detailed reporting on several data metrics that you can use while making decisions.

workflow task reports

You can figure out what part of your workflow is experiencing issues. If “To-do’s” are not moving to “Production” fast enough, you know what to do.

Further, you can also find which of your resources are lagging behind. ProofHub lets you figure out the share of work across your team and compare it with “High Priority” or “Urgent” work.

Visualize task reports

Again, by making data-guided decisions, you’ll be able to pinpoint the problem much more accurately, and without any prejudices.

From productivity level to completion rate, ProofHub provides every data point that smart managers use to ace projects. See Reporting in Action.  

Convention-breaking Creativity

monkey moving an on-screen cursor

Source: tenor.com/search/monkey-on-computer-gifs

Have you seen a monkey moving an on-screen cursor using only its thoughts?

It’s okay if you haven’t but you should know that this was made possible by Brown University’s brain science program.

The project required a collaborative effort by a team of mathematicians, medical doctors, neuroscientists, and computer scientists.

If we view this problem in management parlance, it can’t be solved with standardized processes and rigid planning. It needs a fresh air of creativity and ideas to flow fluidly among the collaborators.

Your MBA curriculum might have stressed proper planning and sticking to the process but in the office, you will need to get creative with these tools.

While in most cases, you will not be training a monkey to move a cursor, the creative problem-solving involved, will be similar. You will be working on projects that require out-of-the-box thinking, and a strong mind-meld among your team.

At times, this creativity will challenge conventions. You might have to give full control back to team members, fray with top-level execs or change the workflow altogether. Creativity is the differentiator.

A small evidence of this comes from Google.

This HBR Article talks about how Google tracked the execution of ideas at the company. The ideas that were not met with support from upper management turned out to be more successful than the ones that did have managerial involvement. Autonomy proved its mettle.

Conclusion

Landing a management position, either straight from Business School or with a well-deserved promotion will set you up for a new kind of job experience.

Today, the work environment, the mindset of people, and ways of work – all are undergoing a major transformation, for which managers need to be prepared. MBA sure is the first step in the journey but to really tackle the bumps and slips along the way, you’ll need some real-life lessons.

While you are sure to learn the same as you proceed in your management position, the sooner you acquire these lessons, the better you would be at your job.

 Vartika Kashyap
Vartika Kashyap

Vartika Kashyap is the Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub and has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2018. Her articles are inspired by office situations and work-related events. She likes to write about productivity, team building, work culture, leadership, entrepreneurship among others and contributing to a better workplace is what makes her click.


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