The next generation of office professionals must focus on enhancing their manager’s management practice says Shane Everts

Managers are accountable for the strategic direction and the performance of their organisation through effective management practice. Managers must manage flexibly, effectively and appropriately, particularly when it comes to decision making.

Beware of Bias

As every organisation is unique, they each have different strategies, cultures, workforces and competitive environments.  Management involves juggling a variety of interests and approaches, yet as individuals working in a complex organisation in today’s fast-paced environment, blind spots and biases are unavoidable.

The truth is most people fall victim to these biases and filters that affect their ability to make rational, logical decisions. We are subject to cognitive bias, resulting in decisions that are based on perceptions and past experience. When a manager is under the impression that they know their work and the area well, a confirmation bias exists; where often alternative or contrary evidence is rejected outright. The only information considered is that which is immediately available, known as availability bias. Lastly, managers are more often than not blind to their own management mistakes and thus fall victim to self-serving bias.

The best way to address these blind spots and biases is to become aware of the common misconceptions managers have about themselves and work towards remedying them. Here is where I see a newly expanded role and responsibility for top-tier PAs and EAs to create awareness using evidence-based management practices. Own your position! You have the power and ability to help your manager make better decisions.

1. Engage in Rational Dialogue

Involve all the stakeholders that are affected or potentially affected by the decision in rational dialogue.  This will allow stakeholders to offer their preferred options and solutions

2. Create an environment for Collective Reasoning

Explore all the stakeholder options and solutions, including those with positive and potential negative outcomes to arrive at the best course of action going forward.

3. Adopt a neutral stance towards ideologies, theories and breakthroughs

Be original and build on what has come before, leading to better ideas and solutions. There are no magic remedies.  The best solutions are usually preceded by work from others done previously.  Acknowledge the work of predecessors.

4. Celebrate and develop your collective brilliance

Recognise that implementing practices, strategies and accomplishing organisational change requires the coordinated effort of many.  Commitment from colleagues is greatest when people feel they have ownership.

5. Identify and emphasize drawbacks

Explain the risks to stakeholders and outline the potential pitfalls.  This allows for an inclusive decision process and leads to informed decision-making.

The Challenges

1. Too much evidence

Information can be overwhelming and may be too much for your manager to consume and process within a particular situation or timeframe.  Ensure that your recommendations are integrated in a way that is accessible and memorable for your manager.

2. Not enough good evidence

Not all evidence fully explores the true value of the proposed solution and may present limited information on the actual intervention and how to implement it.

3. Irrelevant evidence

In some instances, your evidence or proposed solution may only be relevant some of the time and cannot be applied in all situations.  Conservative managers may also question the relevance of information, so be ready to justify your approach with good evidence.

4. People try to mislead you

People may recommend advice that could lead to other issues so that they can charge more consulting fees. So make sure you obtain information from more than one expert.

5. You could be misleading yourself

You are also vulnerable to the same biases and filters. Sometimes we only hear what we want to hear and then discard what we don’t want to hear.

Evidence-based management requires a willingness to set aside beliefs and conventional wisdom. It requires your commitment to fact-finding, using a sound method and approach.  Evidence-based management changes power dynamics and replaces authority, reputation and intuition with credible data as evidence.

By incorporating evidence-based management theory, the PA profession can directly impact and contribute to the enhancement of management practice. It will most definitely impact and improve your company’s bottom line. The real question is:  Now that you know the truth, will you say “I told you so”, or will you immerse yourself in the practice of evidence-based management to bring about positive change?

Voted one of the top Office Professionals in South Africa during 2009, currently Marketing and Communications Lead, continuous student in Management specialising in Marketing. Ambassador to office profession, a secret agent and the smoking gun behind ... (Read More)

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