Managing the “Heart” of a Firm
As one man said, the people are the heart and the soul of any organization. According to M. P. Follet, management is the art of getting things done through others. To successfully accomplish any work in an organization, the success of the managers lies in their ability to get the workers execute their duties and in the worst case scenario, achieve just the expected results. Their success lies in their ability to have their staff run their duties with the least supervision and attain maximum results. This, Henry Fayol foresaw and as such developed the 14 Principles of management to aid in equipping management with tools to enable them organize and interact with the staff so as to achieve optimum performance leading to the augmentation of the firm’s profit and satisfaction of the employees, concurrently.
It is important to understand that with an increase in the number of QS firms and growth of the existing ones, these vital principles would play out in a typical QS consultancy firm and not upholding them will lead to diminished or “below optimum” performance. Now, let us venture on how these principles apply in a typical QS firm:
- Division of work:
In any firm where there exists more than one technical employee practising the trade of a Quantity Surveyor, it is important that the work be divided equitably and once allotted, the employee, qualified or under training is made responsible for it through set measures. This may include progressive report writing, filling in of key performance indicators based on tasks and mandate and development of an assessment system within the firm to ensure records are kept contemporary and adequate. This will ensure that the effort and concentration given to the tasks are optimum and reduces by a margin the risk of errors, if the employees are well trained and acquainted with the task. The more time an employee spends on a job, the more acquainted they are with it, increasing their experience on typical work, improving their skills.
Changing hands on the job or having one person handling a whole load of projects in the office may run one into a risk of errors. In the former, none of the employees knows the job so well to perfectly execute it, hence some conclusions may be made out of assumptions, while in the latter, an employee may be forced to execute inadequately to measure up with the pressure of delivering on time, compromising on quality. To maximise on human resources as Fayol would put it, work specialization is indispensable.
- Authority and responsibility:
Fayol defines authority as the right to give orders and power to exact obedience. Responsibility on the other side is being accountable or answerable for any obligation. These go hand in hand. Any one responsible for the execution of tasks given must be empowered or given corresponding authority to carry out the task successfully. For instance, if an employee is given a lot of work to finish and submit within a very limited period of time, they should be facilitated with all that they need to work late and arrive home safely. If they have been given a report to write they should be allowed free access to the various sources of information that would inform the conclusions of the report, and the like. Where this principle has been violated, and employees lack authority equal to the responsibility at hand, employees easily become demotivated or limited, hence not achieving expected performance. Taking it to the opposite extreme and the employee is given authority without being made responsible for the subsequent actions, this may lead to irresponsible behaviour and unnecessary loss on the side of the firm. Authority and responsibility hence must be merged and balanced.
Fayol identifies discipline as sincerity about the work and enterprise, carrying out the orders and instructions of the superiors and to have faith in the policies and programmes of the business enterprise, in this case, the firm. This is two way. Employees will only sincerely obey orders if accorded good leadership. One is a successful leader, who in their absence, things operate as though they (leader) are present. Employees keep time, meet deadlines, manage resources efficiently and purely act in favour of the firm. There is for sure a problem too big to be assumed, if leadership has to use warnings, fines, suspensions or dismissals to maintain workers’ discipline. To inspire discipline, the firm directors ought to live the very virtue in all their undertakings, hence giving force to the Employees’ code of conduct (where it exists) or their instructions on the execution of tasks and organizational behaviour.
- Unity of Command:
This is in essence the principle of one boss. An employee may find themselves in a mess where they are to receive instructions from two bosses and each gives different guidelines on how to perform a task or duty. Violation of this principle has some consequences one of which is ruined working relationships as one may feel that their authority is undermined. To avoid this, an employee ought to receive instructions regarding work from one boss. Where two or more bosses exist, it should be clear whose opinion or instruction takes precedence, in a scenario where their instructions appear to be incongruent.
- Unity of Direction:
The spirit of this principle is that those in the firms should have their efforts directed towards a common goal. This can only be created by the management by hiring the right staff in terms of qualification and attitude. Further on, ensuring that all the work is done using generally a common plan if the shared objective of achieving high quality project within time and budget would be realized. Until there is unity of direction, teamwork cannot be achieved. Instead, resources are wasted, there is duplication of activities, and there is difficulty in achieving the firms’ objectives.
- Subordination of individual interests to general interests:
Any one firm is much bigger than the individual. As a matter of fact, all individuals working in a firm must strive to find their interest in the vision and mission of the firm and not vice versa. Where their interests collide or are not reconciled with that of the firm, employees and directors alike should surrender their personal interest in favour of the interest of the firm.
Where this principle is not outlived by the firm, there you see slackness and laxity in the execution of the work and the output is devoid of requisite quality as per set standards.
To achieve this position, the directors of the firm must be able to woo the loyalty of the employees so that it will naturally come out of them to sacrifice for the good of the firm. You know that this principle is in violation, where the firm has to enforce it through elaborate supervision systems in a bid to ensure the employees are always working in the interest of the firm. The may make the employees at times feel micromanaged and mistrusted and hence demoralized to perform optimally.
The wages that the employees are taking home, whether they say it or not, is a key motivator or demotivator to their performance. If an employer would be fair, they should determine the amount based on the cost of living, work assigned to an employee, of course balancing this against prevailing wage rate and the financial position of the firm. As far as possible, it should afford the required level of satisfaction to both the employer and their employees.
Where the remuneration is reasonable, it should also be rewarding to the employees efforts, if it would motivate performance and better still live to its name ‘remuneration’. As one would put it, remuneration should be something more than just a reimbursement of basic needs expense.
This article was first published on the The Quantity
Surveyor Magazine, the official journal of the
Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya.
It was written by Seraphine Okemwa,
one of our key staff team, in the
first quarter of 2017.