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A brief step back

We mentioned in the last post that our definition of management – the development of organizational objectives and the identification and deployment of resources to accomplish them – is a “big arrow” declaration that requires some elaboration to be rendered meaningful to practitioners.

But actually, in order to begin work on that, it might be useful to take one more step back to establish a broader, firmer foundation for the coming discussion. So let’s consider this for a moment:

A standard military maxim has it that the commander’s first responsibility is to the mission, and only then to the troops.

So, are we to take this to mean that the mission is paramount, and only after addressing that do we turn what remains of our attention (if any) to those who carry it out for us – is that really how it works? It sure seems terribly cynical, and certainly many people leap on it as evidence of how heartless and exploitative the military is at its core.

But the truth, as anyone who has served in the military will know, is that few organizations display more genuine institutional dedication and deep personal commitment to their members than does the typical military unit, or the military establishment generally.

And yet those same military outfits – and, indeed, all of their members –  fully subscribe to the mission-first maxim. How do we reconcile these seemingly irreconcilable instincts coexisting in one organization?

As it turns out, this principle actually carries a great deal of hard-won wisdom, which encompasses many ideas of fundamental importance for organizations of all types. We will take just a brief look at it, next week.

And after that we will be able to return to our main topic, beginning to narrow the scope of our discussion arrows, delving deeper into the nature of the manager’s role in modern organizations.

See you then!

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