Comment The Five Minds of a Manager Essay
Comment The Five Minds of a Manager
The Five Minds of a Manager the five aspects of the managerial mind—has proved not only powerful in the classroom but insightful in practice, as we hope to demonstrate in this article. We’ll first explain how we came up with the five managerial mind-sets, then we’ll discuss each in some depth before concluding with the case for interweaving the five. The Five Managerial Mind-Sets Jonathan Gosling is the director of the Centre for Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter in Exeter, England. Henry Mintzberg is the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill University in Montreal and the author
of the forthcoming book Managers Not MBAs from Berrett-Koehler. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, headquartered in Geneva, has a management development concern. It worries that it may be drifting too far toward a fast-action culture. It knows that it must act quickly in responding to disasters everywhere—earthquakes and wars, floods and famines—but it also sees the need to engage in the slower, more delicate task of building a capacity for action that is careful, thoughtful, and tailored to local conditions and needs.
Many business organizations face a similar problem—they know how to execute, but they are not so adept at stepping back to reflect on their situations. Others face the opposite predicament: They get so mired in thinking about their problems that they can’t get things done fast enough. We all know bureaucracies that are great at planning and organizing but slow to respond to market forces, just as we’re all acquainted with the nimble companies that react to every stimulus, but sloppily, and have to be constantly fixing things. And then, of course, there are those that suffer from both
afflictions—for example, firms whose marketing departments are absorbed with grand positioning statements while their sales forces chase every possible deal. Those two aspects establish the bounds of management: Everything that every effective manager does is sandwiched between action on the ground and reflection in the abstract. Action without reflection is thoughtless; reflection without action is passive. Every manager has to find a way to combine these two mindsets—to function at the point where reflective thinking meets practical doing. But action and reflection about what? One
obvious answer is: about collaboration, about getting things done cooperatively with other people—in negotiations, for example, where a manager cannot act alone. Another answer is that action, reflection, and collaboration have to be rooted in a deep appreciation of reality harvard business review • november 2003 in all its facets. We call this mind-set worldly, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “experienced in life, sophisticated, practical. ” Finally, action, reflection, and collaboration, as well as worldliness, must subscribe to a certain rationality or logic; they rely on an analytic
mind-set, too. So we have five sets of the managerial mind, five ways in which managers interpret and deal with the world around them. Each has a dominant subject, or target, of its own. For reflection, the subject is the self; there can be no insight without self-knowledge. Collaboration takes the subject beyond the self, into the manager’s network of relationships. Analysis goes a step beyond that, to the organization; organizations depend on the systematic decomposition of activities, and that’s what analysis is all about. Beyond the organization lies what we consider the subject of the worldly
mind-set, namely context—the worlds around the organization. Finally, the action mind-set pulls everything together through the process of change—in self, relationships, organization, and context. The practice of managing, then, involves five perspectives, which correspond to the five modules of our program: • Managing self: the reflective mind-set • Managing organizations: the analytic mind-set • Managing context: the worldly mind-set • Managing relationships: the collaborative mind-set • Managing change: the action mind-set If you are a manager, this is your world! Let us make clear several characteristics of
this set of sets. First, we make no claim that our framework is either scientific or comprehensive. It simply has proved useful in our work with managers, including in our master’s program. (For more on the program, see the sidebar “Mind-Sets for Management Development. ”) Second, we ask you to consider each of these managerial mind-sets as an attitude, a frame of mind that opens new vistas. Unless you get into a reflective frame of mind, for example, you cannot open yourself to new ideas. You might not even notice such ideas in the first place without a worldly frame of mind. And, of course, you cannot appreciate the
buzz, the vistas, and the opportunities of actions unless you engage in them. Third, a word on our word “mind-sets. ” We page 2 The Five Minds of a Manager do not use it to set any manager’s mind. All of us have had more than enough of that. Rather, we use the word in the spirit of a fortune one of us happened to pull out of a Chinese cookie recently: “Get your mind set. Confidence will lead you on. ” We ask you to get your mind set around five key ideas. Then, not just confidence but coherence can lead you on. Think, too, of these mind-sets as mind-sights—perspectives. But be aware that, improperly used, they can also be mine sites.
Too much of any of them—obsessive analyzing or compulsive collaborating, for instance—and the mind-set can blow up in your face. Managing Self: The Reflective Mind-Set Managers who are sent off to development courses these days often find themselves being welcomed to “boot camp. ” This is no country club, they are warned; you’ll have to work hard. But this is wrongheaded. While managers certainly don’t need a country club atmosphere for development, neither do they need boot camp. Most managers we know already live boot camp every day. Besides, in real boot camps, soldiers learn to march and obey, not
to stop and think. These days, what managers desperately need is to stop and think, to step back and reflect thoughtfully on their experiences. Indeed, in his book Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky makes the interesting point that events, or “happenings,” become experience only after they have been reflected upon thoughtfully: “Most people do not accumulate a body of experience. Most people go through life undergoing a series of happenings, which pass through their systems undigested. Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, related to general patterns, and synthesized.
” Unless the meaning is understood, managing is mindless. Hence we take reflection to be that space suspended between experience and explanation, where the mind makes the connections. Imagine yourself in a meeting when someone suddenly erupts with a personal rant. You’re tempted to ignore or dismiss the outburst—you’ve heard, after all, that the person is having problems at home. But why not use it to reflect on your own reaction—whether em- Mind-Sets for Management Development In 1996, when we founded the International Masters Program in Practicing Management with colleagues from around the world, we
developed the managerial mind-sets as a new way to structure management education and development. Managers are sent to the IMPM by their companies, preferably in groups of four or five. They stay on the job, coming into our classrooms for five modules of two weeks each, one for each of the mindsets, over a period of 16 months. We open with a module on the reflective mind-set. The module is located at Lancaster University in the reflective atmosphere of northern England—the nearby hills and lakes inspire reflection on the purpose of life and work. Then it is on to McGill University in
Montreal, where the grid-like regularity of the city reflects the energy and order of the analytic mind-set. The worldly mind-set on context comes alive at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, where new technologies jostle ancient traditions on the crowded streets. Then comes the collabora- harvard business review • november 2003 tive mind-set, hosted by faculty in Japan, where collaboration has been the key to managerial innovations, and Korea, where alliances and partnerships have become the basis for business growth. Last is the action mind-set module, located at Insead in France,
where emerging trends from around the world convert into lessons for managerial action. So our locations not only teach the mindsets but also encourage the participating managers to live them. And so have we, in the very conception of the program. Our approach to management development is fundamentally reflective. We believe managers need to step back from the pressures of their jobs and reflect thoughtfully on their experiences. We as faculty members bring concepts; the participants bring experience. Learning occurs where these meet—in individual heads, small groups, and all together.
Our 50-50 rule says that half the classroom time should be turned over to the participants, on their agendas. The program is fully collaborative all around. There is no lead school; much of the organizational responsibility is distributed. Likewise, the faculty’s relationship with the participants is collaborative. And faculty members work closely with the participating companies, which over the past eight years have included Alcan, BT, EDF Group and Gaz de France, Fujitsu, the International Red Cross Federation, LG, Lufthansa, Matsushita, Motorola, Royal Bank of Canada, and Zeneca. We think of our setting as being especially
worldly, because the participating managers and faculty host their colleagues at home, in their own cultures, and are guests abroad. We also believe that the program’s reflective orientation allows us to probe into analysis more deeply than in regular education and work. Finally, our own purpose is action: We seek fundamental change in management education worldwide—to help change business schools into true schools of management. page 3 The Five Minds of a Manager These days, what managers desperately need is to stop and think—to step back and reflect thoughtfully on their experiences.
barrassment, anger, or frustration—and so recognize some comparable feelings in yourself? Your own reaction now becomes a learning experience for you: You have opened a space for imagination, between your experience and your explanation. It can make all the difference. Organizations may not need “mirror people,” who see in everything only reflections of their own behavior. But neither do they need “window people,” who cannot see beyond the images in front of them. They need managers who see both ways—in a sense, ones who look out the window at dawn, to see through their own reflections to the awakening world outside.
“Reflect” in Latin means to refold, which suggests that attention turns inward so that it can be turned outward. This means going beyond introspection. It means looking in so that you can better see out in order to perceive a familiar thing in a different way—a product as a service, maybe, or a customer as a partner. Does that not describe the thinking of the really successful managers, the Andy Groves of the world? Compare such people with the Messiers and Lays, who dazzle with great mergers and grand strategies before burning out their companies. Likewise, reflective managers are able to see behind in order to look ahead.
Successful “visions” are not immaculately conceived; they are painted, stroke by stroke, out of the experiences of the past. Reflective managers, in other words, have a healthy respect for history—not just the grand history of deals and disasters but also the everyday history of all the little actions that make organizations work. Consider in this regard Kofi Annan’s deep personal understanding of the United Nations, a comprehension that has been the source of his ability to help move that complex body to a different and better place. You must appreciate the past if you wish to use the present to get to a better future.