Sunday, November 19, 2006


"You can not manage people. You can manage inventory, you can manage cash etc. But, you can not manage people."

Ross Perot said it. Some others may have alluded to the same concept.

All those things that we associate 'management' with are not really manageable. Time management - can you manage time? We can only manage ourselves relative to time. I think this is what we actually mean when we say time management but it is said as though we are capable of managing time.

With people management, some things change a bit. You can not manage people. That can be taken as God's world. You do manage yourself with respect to people. That has some meaning in it. But, the most important  about people management is to realize that we can and must manage our agreements with people. That's what leads to effective people management.

As adults, managing  professional people can mean only one thing. As adults, we get together, discuss responsibilities, hash around what each person can do, what resources are required, what is a reasonable deadline, how do we communicate, how do measure completion, how do we hold each other accountable. Once these things are agreed upon, people management is all about managing this crucial agreement and making changes as needed. If the person we are trying to manage says that he needs additional resources, we ask for facts, if we are convinced, we will amend the agreement by either giving him more resources or letting him take more time. Agreement is base lined again and performance is tracked against the new baseline.

Looking at managing people as managing agreements between two adults help reduce so much stress, confusion and ambiguity associated with managing people. With this concept in mind, we can easily ignore idiosyncrasies which sometimes bother us more than actual people themselves. We can discount all that and focus on nailing down the agreement and then managing the agreement and ignore whether we like the people or not (vice versa), whether he works enough hours or not, if he dresses well or not, all these fall aside. Where possible, along with managing agreements, we also try to build, nurture and enhance relationships. With most individuals, it only  helps make formality around "agreement management" less and less as we develop more trust. Some people do not like friendly gestures, we need to respect that too and focus on the agreement and move on.

This framework should also be handy in all human relationships not just human relationships at work. Although, may require some changes to the framework to put it in practice in family situations.


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