Let me tell you how I see it: Too often the key functions in an organisation are held by incompetent managers who really have no idea what they are doing. Owing to this lack of knowledge and experience these leaders employ people below them to delegate tasks to. These 2nd tier employees then employ people below them to do the same. None of these individuals are trained properly, given proper job expectations and will ever have the strength of character to challenge the bosses decisions. Off course the boss knows all of this as its the reason why he employed them in the first place.
So the cycle continues and at the end of the financial year, the spreadsheets are analysed and what glaringly stands out are wage costs disproportionate to the bottom line. Another year later and the department is still employing these incompetent managers and directionless staff members; there is very little of a training structure in place; money is being hemorrhaged to salaries and the deliverables are in such a mess that the only solution is to hire a consultant to finish the job off properly. At the end of it all you have employed 3 people to do the job instead of just the 1 it needed. Included in that you have also paid the consultants fee simply to be able to show some form of departmental success at the end of it all. And to top it off, the department is still hopelessly inefficient. Clearly this is all about weak leadership.
For lack of a better and more obvious example, let’s use the civil service to demonstrate this point. Many managers in the civil service have cushy jobs because of nepotism, ticked boxes and cronyism. Others have their jobs because of merit, whilst the majority are there because of their political affiliation or black economic empowerment. The managers are employing people weaker than themselves because they do not want their authority or positions challenged.
So the teams getting built in the civil service are a new generation of civil servants with weak role models, training that goes through the motions, zero guidance and a work experience which demonstrates to them that the way to succeed is by corruption, laziness, false pretences and cronyism. The department looks good on the outside, has created jobs and pushes paper to look like its working, when in reality the foundations on which it was built are slowly crumbling. No wonder there is such a mess….
The civil service (and many other organisations) need to take a sharp knife and cut out all the excess people costs as well as the incompetent individuals employed in the organisation. The focus then needs to be about doing three things:
Replace the managers with competent workers. These are the talented individuals which are at this stage largely sitting in the private sector and privileged communities (for historical reasons).
Provide a framework for training them in their roles, agreeing on expectations and facilitating a process for achieving these goals.
Put them to work with the key mandates of:
Getting civil service working effectively
Mentoring a replacement over the next 2- 5 years using the same training frameworks.
They say that the best leaders will eventually make themselves obsolete. Leadership is about giving to those whom you are leading forward. In an organisation this means cultivating and training the talent you employ – Not to be subservient, mute and robotic but rather to be forward thinking and respectfully independent in expressing educated opinions. As a manager you are not right all the time, you will make mistakes and there are industry forces which you are not aware off. By employing strong individuals who challenge your assumptions, question your decision making and pester you for strategic direction you are thus forced to make sure that you are doing your job well.