No Silver Bullet

There are so many management terms and tools that it can be more than a little difficult to see the wood for the trees.   Vision, purpose, strategy, objectives, plan, programmes, projects, performance, change, risk, outputs, outcomes….. And then there’s the relationships, dependencies and even overlaps and contradictions that link these things together.  So that’s a lot of potential activity between defining a purpose and a outcome.

There are even published compilations of “Management Models”, including those from the Financial Times which list just the 60 every manager should know.  Of course there is no silver bullet, rather the prudent application of some fundamentals, and an overall grip on those so that they integrate and pull in the same direction.  So definitely not “off the self” but rather a set of tools relevant to specific circumstances. …less “set menu”, or even “À la carte”, but more “mezze”. 

So here’s my one page take on the key components, and their broad relativity. Not a panacea but a sense of order and structure.  At least as a map by which to navigate that wood of trees…

So that's the broad framework.  Here's the mapping of (1) leadership business, (2) managing business, (3) managing business change and (4) delivering business.

1. Leadership Business: Why and What

So some top level leadership defining the purpose, plus the objectives to achieve that purpose, and ensuring that these are sufficiently clear and specific, and engaging people on this. From these all else flows.  There may even be some preferred values which shape and steer subsequent behaviours.  Leadership is probably less head and more heart,  art rather than science, and character than personality.  So in simple terms it’s about strategy, the why (…we do what we do) and the what (…we are going to do).

2. Managing Business: How

Management is then about the planned delivery of that purpose and objectives.  That’s more head than heart and more science than art.  So it’s the plan  - the how - that makes a reality of that purpose (why) and objectives (what).

So a bit like a strategy in military conflict, at least there’s a clear starting point, even though this will adapt and adjust with application in the operational environment.  After all the term strategy is derived from the military – the plan of action to achieve a specific objective.

3. Managing Business Change

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated in 500BC "The only thing that is constant in life is change".  And as echoed by Disraeli “Change is inevitable. Change is constant”.  Whether that’s (a) a virtuous circle of continual improvement, (b) a neutral circle of change for the sake of change (c) a repetitive circle of history forgotten, or (d) a vicious circle of decline, it all needs to be managed while still delivering. 

4. Delivering Business: Doing

That plan is implemented through processes, people and projects to deliver outputs and outcomes to customers.  So this is the actual doing.   That activity is probably monitored and steered through some combination of performance, portfolio, programme and project management, especially where things are changing.


It’s often the case that many of these management tools operate to independently from the others (and there may even be specific post holder for each of these roles).   Where finance, risk, performance and change are all aligned and focused in the same direction, they respond collectively and efficiently to that purpose and objectives.

If fact one of the simplest and best macro approaches is the well-established police approach of  gold/silver/bronze command.  Most notably because this has stood the test of time as fashionable models come and go.   The gold commander makes a decision about what needs doing (…seal the football ground).  The silver commander works out how to achieve that (…a team on each entrance/exit, plus a mobile spare).  And the bronze commander(s) actually do it (…present and responsive on each entrance/exit).  Also the Gold commander will openly seek and take expert advice from specialist advisers (negotiation, public order…) as part of that decision making process.  A simple and effective framework to structure the broader suite of components.

So a map by which to navigate that wood of trees…not the only map nor indeed the perfect map.  At least a functional map, with a clearer view of the landscape, with some places visited and some places yet to be explored.