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The Role of Upper Management Problem Solving, Part 3

Problem solving can oftentimes be very similar to working your way through a maze. In such a case, those who are in the maze would be greatly benefitted by another perspective. This is where upper management comes in.

Upper management means more than the position of authority. It also means the position of overview. Oversight. You can immediately see the benefit of that overview and the advantage an overview would play in helping others through a maze. Those with an overview readily recognize the direction needed in order to work through the maze. Meanwhile, the perspective from within the maze is extremely limited. They just can’t see the “big picture,” and the big picture is exactly what they need to see. Hence the need for management from above—upper management.

Upper management must take advantage of its unique overview by providing the needed guidance to those too deep in the problem to see the solution. It must hover above and observe, looking carefully at the struggle. As it observes and analyzes the struggle, the route to the solution becomes apparent. It must take advantage of its unique vantage point and resist the temptation to operate beneath its intended level. It must stay out of the maze. In order to be truly effective it has one role: to manage from above.

Help Me Help You

Helping middle management see the big picture is the primary objective of upper management. Sharing the unique perspective upper management has of the particular problems that are currently facing middle management will help them recognize the critical role they play in the solution. Middle management must see the problem and see it in a way that they will never see it alone. They must see its causes, its scope and the cause(s). They must see the points at which the failure is occurring and why. They must be helped to step back and take a good look at the whole of the problem. Next they must be shown the critical role they and their subordinates play in the solution. Then and only then will they be fully prepared to tackle the complexities of the reoccurring problems that plague their particular industry.

Whatever you do, as upper management don’t allow yourself to get pulled into the maze or absorbed into doing your manager’s job. The great temptation is to get drawn down into the maze doing tasks that are actually assigned to under-management. It may even seem somewhat noble to “see to it that things get done right” by doing them yourself or by having an “I’ll do it myself” attitude, but never forget the fact that while you’re doing their job, nobody is doing yours.

Do Your Job

This job of upper-management is much too important to be left undone. If you bear the title of upper-management, make sure that’s what you’re doing. Study your company or department, watch it work, listen carefully to the complaints of both the customers and the employees, analyze the problems and help those over whom you see (oversee) see the issues and solve the problems.

That’s your job. You’re not management, you’re upper management.

Doug Bellamy is president of Innovative Drywall Systems Inc. dba Alta Drywall, Escondido, Calif., where he is known for his proactive, innovative approach to our changing industry, and use of modern technology and cutting edge products and services.

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