Does the managers professional background matter?


Would you rather be managed by someone who has done your job all be it years ago or someone who had no experience of your work but was keen to learn? Do you think senior managers need a professional background in a service to run it properly or do you think management skills are transferable as long as managers are prepared to learn about the service and listen to experience staff?

Which is worse to work for the senior manager who did your job 25 years ago and whose fixed views fail to accept that things are very different today or the senior manager who following a management restructuring is responsible for such a wide range of services that they have little understanding or knowledge out side of the budget position and performance against key targets? 

We would all like the people who manage us to have a good understanding of our job, that way they are less likely to have unrealistic expectations and be more appreciative of the pressures we work under. But not so familiar with the work that they think they can do it better than us.

You like to think that the person running the service understands it although sometimes you doubt it. The emphasis on financial controls and performance targets  makes you wonder whether today's senior managers wouldn't be just as at home managing a high street department store or a supermarket chain. 

In the past you were more likely to be directly managed by some one who use to do your job and to work in a service managed by someone who had a background in that service. It had its draw backs there was the risk of micro management, a tendency to fail to appreciate just how much the work had changed and a deluded view that their background meant they were closer to the staff. 

Today the person running the service will have transferable business skills but probably no background in many of the services they are now responsible for. Hopefully they are keen to learn what these services do but there is always a risk that before they can master their brief they are required to come up with the next round of budget savings. Will they feel as passionate about their new services as the old bosses? How will they assess the budget saving proposals offered up? How widely will they consult on the do-ability of options and will they be unduly swayed by the political deliverability ? 

Blair McPherson former director author and blogger 

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