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Delivering today and safeguarding tomorrow

Delivering today (a management purpose)

This is the operational ‘system’ focused on delivering today. It is concerned with how the work works. Or more precisely, this is how the work is expected to work, intended to work, believed to be working, as well as actually working.

‘Today’ consists of things like delivery production deadlines, urgent orders, waiting customers, excessive costs. ‘Today’ is more likely to concern problems than opportunities. It is a maintenance system. It calls for management action. It is about managing what we know we know.

Understanding such a system and introducing remedies can become confused with and overpowered by how the people work. This leads to blame, explanations of ‘bad apples’, workers’ low productivity, etc. But it is usually the system that is flawed more than the people. So the system needs improving, more than and before the people. In instances of systemic failure, this management system has failed.

Safeguarding  tomorrow (a leadership purpose)

The purpose here is to look ahead and safeguard or secure tomorrow – to make sure that the organisation’s future is better than today. This system works in parallel to today’s management system and is the means by which it is improved.

By comparison with today, tomorrow is relatively unknown. ‘Tomorrow’ consists of options, possibilities, changing markets, new products, fresh sources of income and changes to the business model. Tomorrow includes rectifying and improving the current system and way of working. It concerns what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know, and it calls for innovation. This is a strategic leadership system; it requires leadership action to challenge the status quo and to change the current organisational paradigm.

Implications for how managers’ time is spent

The more senior a manager’s position, the more time they should spend in the leadership zone; in other words, concentrating on managing and improving the system for tomorrow rather than managing the people within today’s system.


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