Magazine article Supervisory Management

How to Manage in the White Spaces

Magazine article Supervisory Management

How to Manage in the White Spaces

Article excerpt

Steve's division has just been reorganized. He now has two of his former peers reporting to him, and he is one of the two department managers within the group.

The reorganization was designed to better service customers, but looking at an organization map Steve can see that problems may arise as he and his counterpart, Janet, work with their newly formed groups. Fortunately, Steve doesn't anticipate any serious problems with his new reports, but he is concerned because the reorganization hasn't addressed some orphan tasks that really don't belong to either him or Janet. Since there may be considerable opportunities to increase revenue if these orphan tasks floating in the white space between his and Janet's operations are addressed, Steve would like to address them but he worries that he may be seen as intruding on Janet's turf.

Steve's situation isn't unusual. If you look at organization charts, you will see that most companies have areas of white space in which you can find work that needs to be done but isn't assigned. Perhaps there is a potentially huge market segment. Or there is a need for market research. Or maybe there is a possible new way to get work done that needs to be investigated.

Sometimes the work could more likely fall within another's area but the person has the attitude, "We're doing well enough; there is no need to bother with that right now," but you think otherwise. Doing the task would make your own work easier or bring in additional revenue. You want to get the ball rolling but you worry about infringing on that manager's territory.

Admittedly, white spaces can be politically sensitive areas to enter, but in today's leaner organizations they are more likely to exist. And as a manager you will have to enter them and work with your colleagues to address the orphan tasks you find there.

The first step is to feel free to criticize others--silently. If you see something that needs to be done in another department, jot it down before you forget it. Keep a list where you will see it often enough to be reminded. When time permits, figure out how you would get each job done.

Next, be a leader instead of a manager. When you are dealing with ill-defined jobs that don't officially fall under any manager's jurisdiction, you have to avoid being accused of minding other people's business. So, instead of announcing that you have noticed something that needs to be done, and you are going to have it done, present it as something anyone can work on. …

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