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Management By Subjective

Many organizations take advantage of a means of accomplishing things through a process popularized by Peter Drucker known as Management By Objective (MBO). This allows everyone to understand the company’s objectives, the means and process of achieving it, and the individual’s role and responsibility in delivering it. One by-products of MBO is the efficiencies gain through standardized processes.

Most functional areas of companies have standardised procedures and processes to ensure a level of quality and consistency in their product and deliverables. After all, by having a uniform or standard approach, it is not only easier to manage, but easier to predict and address flaws or issues should they arise. This is even more the case for companies with multiple locations or facilities carrying out the same process. What you also notice is that in most functional areas of these same companies, there is usually an adherence to corporate standards and processes and without completely squashing a healthy dose of local flavour and character.

One area where many companies continue to struggle in implementing MBO, is sales, specifically when it comes to front line sales people. There seems to be success with MBO with Directors and Managers, but continues to be a challenge for the front line. In many companies this is due to the role sales people play, or are suppose to play in the revenue process. Where there is a lack of sales process, reps are able to perpetuate the myth that sales people are a unique breed, with god given skills that would be neutralized by any interference by management, especially in the form of a process. Since one of the fundamental elements of a good sales process is metrics, measurement and comparisons as a means of maintaining and improving standards, it requires a level of transparency and visibility many sales people are uncomfortable with and are willing to accept. Of course without this it is unlikely that you can roll out and get adherence to a functional and worthwhile sales process.

Since many of these sales people have convinced their managers that they cannot perform if a process or MBO is implemented, managers are held hostage to the unspoken possibility that they may lose one of the sales reps, even when they know the rep is not performing up to standard or ability. There is no bigger fear among front line managers than the thought of a vacant territory, so they fall for the bluff and work with the rep to either avoid a process, or help them circumvent it in the hope of numbers to be delivered. When the numbers come in, fine; when they don’t the manager is left holding the bag, and the underperforming rep dodges another one. It doesn’t have to be this way. Managers should be able to extend MBO down to the front line, they should be able to show at least the vast majority of their reps that a process and MBO can help them be more consistent in their success and enjoy the monetary and other rewards that come with adoption. It is true that at times there will be some short term turmoil, some reps that are good may leave because they don’t like the new regiment. That is usually offset by the gains realised from the other reps, who may not be stars, but improve their performance by adhering to the process and working with MBO. The question that has to be answered is are you willing to live through short term rough waters in exchange for long term performance improvement, or do you want to continue delivering unpredictable results. From where I sit, it is much more practical to align front line objectives with the overall corporate objectives by managing to those objectives.