Category Archives: Starting in Management

Robert Tannenbaum & Warren Schmidt: Leadership Continuum

Among many types of model of leadership is one that is particularly useful to practical day-to-day managers: situational leadership. And by far the best version of this idea was developed by two UCLA professors, Robert Tannenbaum and Warren Schmidt. Their 1958 article (reprinted in 1973) is one of the most reprinted from Harvard Business Review.

Robert Tannenbaum & Warren Schmidt

Robert Tannenbaum & Warren Schmidt

Robert Tannenbaum

Robert Tannenbaum was born in 1916, in Colorado. He studied at The University of Chicago, gaining an AB in Business Administration in 1937, and his MBA in 1938. The following year, he started his PhD in Industrial Relations also at Chicago, but his studies were interrupted by the war.

After serving as a Lieutenant in the US Navy, he returned to his PhD, which he defended in 1948. From there, he went to teach at the UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where he remained until his retirement in 1977.

Warren H Schmidt

Warren Schmidt was born in 1920, in Detroit, and took a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Wayne State University. He then became ordained as a Lutheran minister.

He changed direction again, and after gaining his PhD in Psychology at Washington University, he went to teach at the University of Southern California and UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, where he met Tannenbaum.

By the by, Schmidt is the first of our Management Thinkers and Doers who has won an Oscar. In 1969, he wrote an Op Ed piece for the LA times, titled ‘Is it Always Right to be Right’. This was well received and turned into a short animated movie, narrated by Orson Welles. It won the Academy Award for Best Short Animated Film in 1970.

The Leadership Behaviours Continuum

In what is regarded as a classic 1958 Harvard Business Review article, ‘How to Choose a Leadership Pattern‘, Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H Schmidt set out a range of leadership behaviours.  They set out seven distinct stages on a continuum, which vary from telling team members their decision, through selling their idea and consulting on the problem, to handing over decision-making.

Tannenbaum & Schmidt - Leadership Behaviour Continuum

Tannenbaum & Schmidt – Leadership Behaviour Continuum
A range of behaviours from the purely authoritarian ‘Manager makes a decision and announces it’ through five intermediate styles, to the most democratic ‘Manager allows group to make a decision’ within appropriate constraints.

Equally valuable is their assessment of how a manager can decide how to lead and choose which of the styles will work best.  They argue you must consider three forces:

  • Forces in the manager
    Your values and style, and your assessment of the risk
  • Forces in the team-members
    Your assessment of their readiness and enthusiasm to assume responsibility
  • Forces in the situation
    Time pressure, the group’s effectiveness, organisational culture

This article is a foundation for what is now known as ‘Situational Leadership, and the two trademarked models developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard.

The Seven Leadership Behaviours

1. Manager makes the decision and announces it
This is a purely authoritarian style of leadership, with no consideration given to other points of view. Most appropriate in a crisis, the manager sets clear instructions and expectations.

2. Manager ‘sells’ their decision
The manager takes  the role of decision-maker but advocates their decision, appealing to  benefits to the group. Valuable when you need the group’s support.

3. Manager presents their decision and invites questions
The manager is still in control, but allows the group to explore the ideas to better understand the decision. The manager answers to their team, without committing to honour their opinions.

4. Manager presents a tentative decision, subject to change
Now the group’s opinions can count. The manager identifies and resolves the problem, but consults their team before making their own decision.

5. Manager presents the problem, gets suggestions and then makes a decision
Still the manager retains ultimate decision-making authority. But now, they share responsibility for finding the solution with the group, who can influence the final decision.

6. Manager defines the limits within which the group makes the decision
Now decision-making sits with the team. The manager defines the problem and sets boundaries within which the group can operate, which may constrain the final decision.

7. Manager allows group to make decision, subject to organisational constraints
The group has as much freedom as the manager is able to grant them. The manager may help the group and again, commits to respect the decision the group arrives at.

For More Information

This model is fully described, with analysis, in The Management Models Pocketbook.

 

GAC RIP 2/5/2010

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Rosemary Stewart: Practical Management

Rosemary Stewart studied management extensively, in the UK. Rather than revolutionary, her ideas serve to underpin the day-to-day challenges real managers face in the real world.

Rosemary Stewart

Rosemary Stewart

Short Biography

Rosemary Stewart was born in London, England, in 1924, and grew up first in Sussex, and then moved to Saskatoon, Canada, where she finished her secondary education. She studied economics at the University of British Columbia and then returned to England in 1945, after graduation (and after the war), to study Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, where she also won her doctorate in Management Studies.

She joined the Acton Society Trust as a researcher, and rose to become its director. There, she researched the challenges of large organisations and, in particular, of the newly nationalised British industries. Her interest persisted and she is best known for her studies into and analysis of Britain’s National Health Service. While at the Acton Society Trust, she worked with Joan Woodward, and Reg Revans was also a researcher there.

After seven years, she joined the new Oxford Centre for Management Studies, which became Templeton College, where she was made a Fellow and then, in 1992, upon her retirement, an Emeritus Fellow. Her long-time interest in healthcare management matured when, in 1996, she became the first Director of the newly founded Oxford Health Care Management Institute.

Rosemary Stewart died in 2015.

The Reality of Management

Rosemary Stewart was a prolific author, although most of her books have fallen out of print. Her three most notable books are still available:

All of her books have a focus on real, day-to-day management challenges, pitched firmly at middle managers. They help managers navigate the choices they need to make and the structures within which they work.

They are neither heavy-weight academic tomes, nor lightweight populist handbooks, and so are ideal for the interested, thinking manager, who wants ideas to help her or him to be effective at work.

Choices for the Manager

In the latest of Stewart’s three classic books, she fully articulates the model with which she is most closely associated. She suggested that management effectiveness arises from dealing well with demands and constraints, and, as a result, making good choices.

Demands, Constraints, & Choices - Rosemary Stewart

Demands, Constraints, & Choices – Rosemary Stewart

The diagram sums up 15 years of Stewart’s research.

Demands

Demands on a manager set out what they must do; their responsibilities or duties. But they also  include the demands we make upon ourselves, alongside those imposed by your organisation, manager, peers, and external players, like customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.

Constraints

These are the factors that will also limit a manager’s scope for choices. If anything, they have grown in number since Stewart originally wrote her list. Whilst we arguably have more technology choices, and more choices of where to outsource work to, she did not account these as constraints. Rather, using the one technology available, in the one location it was sited was something she took as a given.

Choices

What everyone in a creative role knows is that constraints don’t just limit choices, they make them clear and give us scope for innovation. But managers do have a lot of freedom about how they work with the resources they have. How well you exercise these choices will dictate your performance as a manager.

Starting in Management

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Beginning a career in management can throw the best of us.  You are probably excellent at the job you have just finished and, whilst you will still need some of your technical skills, they will play a far lesser role in determining your success.  You will naturally feel a draw towards the security and comfort of burying yourself in the technical aspects of your role, but almost certainly, this will be a mistake.  Your role is management and managing should now occupy the bulk of your time.

So, what are some of the things you will need to focus on now?

  • supporting and motivating your staff
  • setting expectations and assessing performance
  • giving recognition for achievement and corrections for errors
  • planning and preparing at increasingly strategic levels
  • maintaining an environment where your team can succeed
  • securing the resources your team needs – including new members
  • training and developing team members
  • reporting on progress and on setbacks
  • negotiating for opportunities, resources and funding
  • financial and personnel management

Exercise: Understand your Management Responsibilities

Using this checklist, speak with your boss and with your new peers to get a clear idea of what your roles are and also how you are likely to need to split your time among them.  Understand:

  • which are most important to your and your team’s success?
  • which are most time-consuming?
  • where are the pitfalls?
  • what are the annual cycles and how will the balance of priorities shift through the year?

What First?

As a manager, your role will be to manage resources: usually people, but sometimes materials or assets.

Step 1: Your first priority is to understand those resources: meet the people, inventory the stock and survey the assets.  As you do, make notes to help you remember what is important.

Step 2: When you have finished, write yourself a readiness memo, titled: ‘An analysis of the resources at my disposal and their fitness for the task at hand’.  You may want to conduct a SWOT analysis to help you with this.

Readiness Memo

Step 3: Next, use this as the basis for drawing up a two to three month plan of action.  At best, it will focus on stabilisation and incremental improvement.  At worst, it may need to be a turnaround plan.

Step 4: When you have done this, file your memo securely, where nobody else can access it or, better still, destroy it.  It will likely contain frank opinions about the people on your team that you will not want to become public.

Further Reading