21 January 2011

Management According to Confucius 2 - 5 Good & 4 Bad Practices

This is the 2nd post from the Series on "Management According to Confucius". The first is the 10 Key Fundamentals of Successful Leaders.  This post discusses the Five Excellent and Four Terrible Practices of management. It is taken from Lun Yu (Analects) Chapter 20 verse 2 论语 堯曰 20: 2.

Firstly, let me give the original Chinese in mind-map form for greater clarity and for those who understand Chinese to validate my interpretation.

My translated English Version:

Power of Mind-Mapping:
You can take a look at the some English translations in paragraph format here. Mind map gives a clearer grouping of concepts from broad to detailed. It has the framework to ensure all the main concepts presented are covered with detailed explanations too and hence improves quality and depth. It is a much better way to present complex ideas.

Five Good Practices
(You will find that some of the English words that I used below are different from the mind-map above. That is because there is no exact translation from Chinese into English and I want to use similar English words to give better understanding)

The five practices are balanced - typical middle of the way thinking of Ancient Chinese. Should not go over board. Too much of a good thing is bad. Let me also quickly add that needed balanced is not fixed but change with the situation. To turnaround an extremely bad situation, we may need to go the other extreme for a short while to kick start or break out of the vicious cycle, after which, a more moderate policy will be better to re-adjust and sustain the momentum before we end up in the other extreme that is bad.
  1. Benefits without Waste
    Only do the things that benefits the people and not oneself will keep us from over spending. Focus on the organization, community and country and use resources wisely and productively.
  2. Hard Working without Complaining
    Confucius taught how to have hard work without the complains. The work must be meaningful and for a worthy cause. If the manager can explain to the staff how their work relates and contributes to the corporate strategies and objectives, they could work with better engagement and productivity with some empowerment when is needed.
  3. Desire without Covetousness It is good to have desire and passion. That is key motivation. But we must guard against greed. The way to prevent that is to pursue righteousness and compassion.
  4. Powerful yet Not Proud - Not be Rude
    It is natural for the rich and powerful to be snobbish and proud. For those of the higher ranks to pull-rank and ill-treat or be rude to others. But good managers are humble. They treat people with respect.
  5. Authoritative yet not Fierce
    Authority comes with one's position. But greater power and influence comes from one's status - how one behaves. Authoritative people command respect and following without screaming, shouting and threatening. It relates to simple things on our dressing and our demeanor. The word I translated as being serious is more about our discipline and integrity - saying and meaning what we say by our action. Seriousness is not about being gloomy and a kill-joy. It also comes by inverting the four bad practices below.
Four Bad Practices
  1. Cruelty
    Confusion explained it as 'without teaching and yet punishing with death'. In business, we can treat 'death' as 'being fired'.  It is cruel to fire an employee for lack of performance without first teaching and equipping him for the job.  Manager has the first responsibility of finding the right person for the job rather than just appointing anyone that is free.
  2. Brutality
    Confucius explains it as giving no guidance and warnings and yet demanding quick success. Cruelty covers the case of lack of performance due to lack of development. Brutality covers the case of crossing boundary, doing without authorization and resulting in failure.
  3. Theft of Time & Resources
    It is quite typical of commanders to take their time for their planning and then leaving very little for their subordinates to plan and get ready for the mission. Confucius called it as stealing - stealing the time from their staff. It is unfair. We can extend time to mean other resources as well. Not providing sufficient resources for their staff to carryout their work and then blaming them for failure is same as theft.
  4. Stinginess - Not Giving Out what is Due
    A typical selfish thinking is the concept of a fixed pie - the more I give the less I have for myself. There are managers who give very low incentives and there are managers who reduce the agreed incentive due to super performance by staff. It is much better to give more to enlarge the pie so that a smaller slice is actually bigger than before. This is principle of sowing and reaping -the greater you sow the greater the harvests. It is also the principle of reciprocation - you get what you give. For more such success principles see 10 Kingdom Principles for Business Success.
The 9 Good Practices

By inverting the bad practices, we get four more good practices. So we have the following 6 to 9 practices as:

6. Develop Your Staff for the Jobs you assigned.
7. Set the Boundaries & Coach when you empower or delegate.
8. Give time and resources to your staff to accomplish your assigned tasks.
9. Be generous in your praise and incentives.

To make it easier for memory, may be covert to the following key words for good practices:
  1. Productivity (Be lean and not wasteful)
  2. Joy in Work
  3. Set Challenging Standards (but not overdoing)
  4. Be Polite & Respecting (to subordinates)
  5. Lead with Influence (draw not push)
  6. Develop staff
  7. Set Boundaries with Empowerment
  8. Support Staff - Give Time and Resources
  9. Be Generous

BVOTECH Copyrighted 2011

See also:
  1. Management According to Confucius - 10 Keys
  2. Management According to Confucius 3 – Love & People Centered

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