Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
20 May 2010

Business Leaders Must Realise That Command and Control Management Will Ultimately Result in Failure

20 May 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Command and control?

Some management gurus might say the days of command and control are numbered, but our experience is that it continues to flourish, Watson said. During such an economic climate, it becomes even more common as executives eager to satisfy impatient investors and managers attempting to keep demanding customers at bay become even more focused on getting the job done more quickly, efficiently and often with fewer resources, he said.

Watson, author of the book Win Every Time essential Lessons for existing and emerging leaders stated that there is evidence that command control thrives in some cultures more than others. He suggested it was prevalent in the Middle East region. Watson, said it is so common mainly because managers don t know any better as they haven t been educated about how to manage people and performance effectively. It is based, he argued, on a misunderstanding of human nature which craves autonomy and resists coercion. While some commentators may claim that cultural differences are the main reason for such an approach to management, Watson says that this is simply an excuse some executives use to avoid taking the intelligent action needed to maximise effectiveness of their organisation.

Using our brains

Command and control is simply about forcing people to comply with a demand or instruction. The opportunity for a subordinate to request clarification, Challenge a seemingly impossible imposed deadline or suggest a better way of working is viewed as obstructive by the manager. The underlying message a command and control focused manager sends to their staff is I m more senior in the hierarchy and have greater status and power, so do as I tell you . But there are a number of significant problems with this ego based management style.

Firstly, our brains respond much better to requests and invitations than they do demands. Most people resent individuals who demonstrate self serving, ego driven managerial styles. They don t want to be told what to do; they want to have an opportunity to think for themselves, and more importantly, have a high level of trust for their manager, Watson said.

Freedom and Creativity

A second problem is that it forces subordinates into blind compliance, which provides them with a convenient excuse for producing inferior quality work, which increases costs. People will tend to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the production of poor quality and are more likely to provide the excuse that they only followed their managers instructions, Watson said.

Workers tend to thrive on having the freedom and time to be creative, Watson said. A boss demanding an immediate response or compliance inspires slipshod work and Results in what is commonly termed fire fighting . But it is the executives and managers who use command and control as their normal approach who are actually starting many of the fires.

Command and control doesn t give people time to think. They are told this deadline is urgent, so feel compelled to take immediate action to appease their boss. But this action is often poorly thought out, without focus and potentially damaging to the quality of output achieved which then Results in blame being apportioned by all parties and no one taking responsibility for the failure.

Dragging down the team

The performance of a whole team or organisation can be dragged down because of managers persistently demanding now now, now . But now is not always the best time to get things done. If quality standards are to be achieved, there needs to be time invested up front for sharing and challenging ideas, developing clarity of purpose and shared ownership for getting the job done right first time, on time, every time.

But Watson states that there are situations when command and control is essential. Even in business, there are rare instances when command and control is required and works well. It s good in short bursts. If there s a pressing deadline and all resources need to be got together in a hurry to deliver the solution. If everybody understands this style is a short term approach and they trust their manager, it can work well. It should, however, be used sparingly. A less dictatorial style can produce far superior Results.

Collaborative management style

Managers should remember that, just like the successes they achieve and enjoy, failure is rarely achieved alone. It is the managers who need to reflect on just how effective or ineffective they are performing and understand that they will get higher productivity, efficiency, quality and profitability for less when people collaborate effectively, Watson said.

The boss is not always the best person to make a decision alone. The best quality decisions are usually made by a group operating in a high trust environment. Open disagreement is welcome as it helps the team to collaborate well, Watson continued.

According to Watson, A collaborative management style is the exception rather than the rule in the Middle East region. Government officials and company executives need to change their approach to recruiting to identifying the best managers if the ultimate goal is to employ more nationals to take on management roles in the coming years. Without this focus their attempts could be futile at best, he concluded.