The First Line Manager: Vision

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish…Vision is the key word for many executive management programs at universities. These universities understand without a vision companies die. Steve Jobs at Apple Corporation is a good example. When Jobs left the leadership of Apple to John Scully; Apple faltered. John Scully in his book “Odyssey”wrote his first Apple executive meeting was a shock. Scully did not understand the culture at Apple.

My blog is about first line management. It is about managers carrying the vision to the first line employees in a company. I sent the link to my blog to several academic people at universities. These academic people wrote articles in Business Week and various other business magazines. I thought they might be interested in first line managers. This was to no avail until last week.

Last week, I actually got a return email from a President of leading business school in Zürich. He was in a web cam interview on business. I sent him the link to my blog. In his response, he stated, “I like your thoughts about the blog! The “problem” with CEO’s that have formulated their leadership ideas when they were first line managers is a risk of being too myopic, too bottom-up, with not enough top-down vision. Please send me your postal address; I would like to send you a complimentary copy of my latest book.”

In my reply, I related an event in my career at a major chemical company. I spoke during a regional sales meeting in Atlanta on managing negative thoughts. How we must manage the people in our life to decrease our negative thoughts. When I sat down the Vice President of chain accounts spoke about our important national chain accounts. I, being with the company less than two years, knew some of the Vice President’s remarks did not ring true. Several salesmen said, “He has been out of the field too long.”

I think universities and executive management programs miss the point. How many years ago was the executive a first line manger? Was the executive ever a first line manager? They act as if a CEO’s talents are transferable from one business to another. Times change and so do employees. Companies develop a culture over time and just like countries they have a unique language. Most first line managers know the culture and language of their company. If the vision is wrong the company fails. The vision must fit reality. The reality of the employees who carry the vision tempers the top-down vision . Effective vision, top-down or bottom-up, is a collaboration between the executive and the first line manager.

This is the point about vision. When the vision comes top-down how is it communicated to the first line? We first line managers are the conduit for this information. We take the vision and meld it into reality for our employees and our customers.

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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