He also held weekly cookouts and he stood in line with all the crew to show he was on equal footing for that day.
One of Abrashoff's heroes was Peter Drucker, often referred to as the "father" of the modern management theory. Drucker predicted the emergence of the innovative knowledge worker -- the kind of talented employee that electronics firms hire as often as they can -- and he developed a management style that sought to "…embrace team members' creativity and intellectual contributions," according to M.E. Oss, writing in Behavioral Healthcare. Drucker developed the idea of decentralizing the workplace, and viewing the workplace as a "human community" that should be built on full trust and deep respect for the worker, not just a place where profit is the sole motive (Byrne, et al., 2005). Drucker treated the workers as "assets" rather than "liabilities" and long before other management leaders, he saw that the knowledge worker would become very important as the "essential capital" of the new economy (Byrne).
Jack Welch is widely seen as a charismatic innovative manager who is credited with moving General Electric from a stagnant corporation to a flourishing, successful company. His work in the 1980s as CEO is seen as a milestone in the development of innovative management theories and strategies. His theory is three-fold: engage employees; satisfy customers; and build solid cash flow (www.welchway.com). It is not by coincidence that he lists the need to engage employees first, since they are the backbone of any company, be it electronics or construction. His theory is to "energize" employees to the point that they believe in the mission that the company has undertaken. He suggests taking the "measure of employee engagement" at least once annually by using "anonymous surveys"; this allows employees to feel totally free to speak their minds about the company. He asks questions: a) How do you feel about "the strategic direction" of the company and how does the company impacts your career? b) Do you feel that the company "cares about you" and have you been given "…the opportunity to grow? (www.welchway.com).
The Starbucks brand has been a powerful brand in the U.S. For many years. The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, has a management theory that certainly is worthy of paying attention to -- whether the management is in the electronics field or in the coffee business. First, Schultz says that management must have a vision. Every company has to stand for something, he says. "Your company's vision must be in your mind every day" (Vogan, 2006). The second key trait management must have is passion. That sounds like a cliche but Schultz says managers must "light the fire" in the bellies of employees (Vogan). The third key trait is becoming a "great decision maker" and the fourth key trait is becoming "a team builder," according to Vogan's review of Schultz' five key traits of great leaders theory in Entrepreneur. The fifth key trait is to have "character" -- without character all of the other four keys are "for naught" (Vogan).
The CEO of the Virgin brand, billionaire Richard Branson, believes that the people working for the company are "the heart and soul of our brand" -- and he believes that by offering customers a "better experience" and having some fun while doing it, management can attract "very bright and enthusiastic people" to come on board as employees (Branson, 2010). Branson says business schools teach marketing in terms of brand values as though "they are the end result of a scientific process" (Branson, 2010). However, his theory is to rely on intuition, empathy, and creativity, rather than "theoretical" approaches (Branson, 2010). For electronics companies, there is a way to adopt a management theory that taps into the brightest ideas and the most successful approaches. For the electronics manager, that entails a careful reading of the successful management strategies of people like Branson, Schultz, Drucker, Welch, and Abrashoff.
Styles / Theories of Management
Creating and Keeping a Positive Workforce
John R. Ryan writes...
He believes a workforce in any business can be improved without a major overhaul of strategies. He starts out with the idea that managers need to "express appreciation" -- which seems simple enough, but too few managers embrace this concept. Ryan was a Navy pilot on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean; his carrier had the most cutting edge technology available but it was outperformed by another carried in his battle group. That other carrier was the oldest conventional aircraft carrier with the oldest aircraft on board. When Ryan had a chance to visit the older carrier, he saw immediately that the captain was "a great communicator." Several times a day the captain on the older carrier used the public address system to tell the 5,000 crewmembers on board what they were doing "well," and often he mentioned names and teams. His own captain on the high-tech ship was technically competent "…but he rarely offered a compliment" (Ryan, 2010).
Ryan's second theory / idea is to "encourage fitness," and this means the company should provide classes on exercise, nutrition, weight loss and wellness (Ryan, 2010). The third category in his theory is to "focus on teams" (team success can "generate tremendous positivity"); and his fourth idea is to "give skepticism its due" (in other words, skepticism is not negativity but rather skepticism is more about challenging assumptions intelligently) (Ryan, 2010).
Keeping Employees Happy in a Downturn
John R. Ryan's column in Bloomberg Businessweek provides an ideal measure of advice for electronics managers in this period of downturn and recession. Ryan references senior researcher Jennifer Deal (she is an executive at the Center for Creative Leadership), who explains the reason why some employees perform their duties at a "higher level of engagement" during a recessionary downturn. People feel "more engaged with their jobs" when they are left with fewer job options, Deal explains (Ryan, 2010). When times are difficult, managers often ask employees to make some financial sacrifices and do extra work, Ryan explains. When the economy comes out of its funk, it is time, according to Ryan, to devise theories and strategies that reward those employees for helping the company weather the storm (Ryan, 2010). Giving additional compensation, offering additional benefits and opportunities to rise in the organization are ways to keep employees not only happy, but to keep them in the company, period (Ryan, 2010). Good managers should follow these guidelines, Ryan advises: give frequent feedback; learn to coach your employees (broaden their thinking, get them to see situations in "new ways"); and "challenge yourself" (leaders get so busy they neglect to examine their own behavior) (Ryan, 2010).
Focus Only on the 98% of Employees That are Engaged
Harold L. Sirkin has a theory of management that is called "Rule of 98/2." He claims that too many managers focus "almost entirely" on the "bad apples" -- the two percent of employees who aren't cutting it or somehow can't be trusted to be effective employees (Sirkin, 2010, p. 1). Instead of instituting any "heavy-handed" policies directed at the troublemakers, a good management strategy is to create lenient policies created to "boost morale and encourage excellence, productivity, and loyalty from the majority," Sirkin explains in Bloomberg Businessweek (p. 2).
Sirkin qualifies his position by giving an example of a company that discontinued its employee sabbatical policy because some employees at the lower rung of the corporate ladder were abusing the policy. In the top rungs of the ladder, the "most valuable employees," were not taking time off very often. But rather than amend the policy -- even though it might anger the lower echelon employees that would no longer be eligible -- the company in question simply abandoned the sabbatical policy altogether, Sirkin explains. Obviously Sirkin believes the strategy of punishing all employees for the wrongdoing of a few is bad management. Sirkin quotes Peter Drucker: "So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work" (Sirkin, 2010, p. 3). Instead of making it difficult for employees, and designing rules that can stifle innovation, he writes that a better theory for managing people is to encourage them to "work smart, enjoy themselves," and look at their jobs as part of "a collaborative process," therefore reducing turnover, lowering the money spent on recruitment and training, and kick starting motivation (Sirkin, 2010, p. 3).
Management Theories / Strategies Related to Electronics Industry
An article in the Indian Journal of Industrial Relations (Kang, et al., 2004, p. 443) identifies management strategies that can be effective in the electronics industry due to the stress that many employees experience. To identify the various coping and symptom strategies that employees at electronics firms used, the authors surveyed a sample of 214 employees in the electronics industry. The results of the survey showed that…
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