Tom Stewart

A few years ago, I came across an old acronym that was used to describe the role of managers, ‘POEM’, whereby the job of management was to Plan, Organize, Execute, and Measure. It seemed to me that in a business environment where hierarchies are flatter, work changes rapidly because of new technologies, new customers, new markets, etc., and where you’re working in a more networked environment, this just doesn’t fit anymore. ‘POEM’ assumes that you know what your job is, so you’re able to plan it, organize, execute and measure it. But if you don’t know what your job is, because of constant change – and because we have increasingly automated the repeatable tasks and processes of work – then you have a different set of priorities, and the first is to ‘Define’ what the job is. Is it the same today as it was yesterday? It may not be, so, it’s important to ask, ‘who are we?’, ‘what business are we in?’, ‘what is the value-added that we offer?’ and ‘what’s on my to-do list this day, week, month, year?’

The second piece is ‘Nurture’ – the idea that managers are not just organizing pre-existing human and other assets; our job is also to develop them. It’s a useful oversimplification to say that managers had less responsibility for the development of their staffs than they have now – or should have. They deployed. Today, we develop and deploy.

The third piece is ‘Allocate’. The capabilities of a company are much less hard-wired than they used to be. A business can be many things to many people, so to manage is to choose. The allocation of resources is something that people used to think was only done by the executive team, but it is actually done by managers at all levels. So there you have it: management’s job is to Define, Nurture, and Allocate.

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