Research at SINTEF has found that managers who are capable of mastering major public-sector turnaround operations share certain traits. Their results are presented in the report “Good management of restructuring processes”, and they could become a useful tool for managers of both small and large companies in the private and public sectors,
“Restructuring is a trend that is here to stay, so we need better knowledge of what is needed to turn the process into something positive, from which employees can also benefit,” says SINTEF senior scientist and project manager Lisbeth Øyum.
“What we often hear about are high levels of sick-leave, conflicts in the work-place and negative attitudes to restructuring. For that reason, we wish to look at organisations and companies that have made a good job of it, in order to learn from them”.
Almost 60 in-depth interviews with managers, workers’ representatives and ordinary employees in seven public-sector organisations that were in the midst of a restructuring process enabled the research team to uncover a number of factors that allow managers to turn change into a positive process for the whole work-place.
One of the main impressions gained by the study was that good managers manage to find time – both for themselves and others – even within tight schedules. Such managers prioritized tasks involved in the process of change, while their staff felt that enough time was being set aside to do their normal work. Even though the interviews gave the researchers the impression that pressure of work was high among the managers, none of them claimed to be stressed or made tense by the situation.
“Good managers seem to have a lot to do, and they manage to do what is needed without becoming stressed,” says Øyum. They manage to make themselves available to other employees, protect them from fuss and improve their ability to cope. This ability to make good use of their time helps to make unstable surroundings more predictable. A manager’s ”time smartness” enables employees feels that they have the situation under control.”
The restructuring process is often experienced as a chaotic situation by employees. It turns out that the best managers enjoy chaos and manage to prioritise daily activities for their staff. They have the ability to be clear and to sort out important and less important matters, so that employees do not need to concern themselves about everything and have the feeling that they have a good overview of the situation. By focusing clearly on what is going to happen and what is important at any given moment, they clear up the chaotic situation and create more relaxed working conditions.
In the course of the process of change, good leaders carry out evaluations, and make it clear for their employees that few elements in the process are locked. They are open to the idea that things can be done in various ways, and they take it for granted that employees want to be part of the process. This creates a feeling of ownership, coping and enthusiasm among staff.
“A common feature was that managers who are successful in the restructuring process had a clear leadership profile and that they had often developed their own management style in the wake of long experience,” says Øyum.
What’s in it for me?
One of the clearest features of good managers that the research team found was that they are good at providing information. This involves more than merely communicating. Good managers understand the power of good communication, and they are good pedagogues. They gather all the relevant information and then they “translate” it into terms that will mean something for employees in practical terms. Information is then transmitted at a joint meeting, at which the manager explains what is going to happen – and why – without leaving any room for ambiguity.
“This is not a matter of sending out a circular or an email flagged in red,” says Øyum. “A good communicator listens more than he informs. Moreover, he demands input from his colleagues. He or she says “How are we going to solve this problem, folks?” Good managers and also visible, they get around and create physical joint spaces for their staff.”
The hunt for good examples
SINTEF took about six months to find relevant cases and managers. The research teams required that the companies they wished to study should be undergoing a restructuring process while they were working with them. The managers also needed recognition that they were doing a good job, there should not be too much noise and feeling of insecurity associated with the restructuring process, while sick-leave and the level of conflict should not have become any worse as a result of it.
The researchers studied a number of different factors. Apart from the employees’ view of the manager’s way of handling the restructuring process, they also looked for information about the changes that the process had meant for the employees, such as the introduction of new technology and changes in their work-place.
Changes in the work environment were another important measure, as was the managers’ own point of view regarding what is involved in good management during the restructuring process.
I see you – and myself
In the report that is just about to be published, good leadership is presented as the ability to see the people behind the job that needs to be done. It is a matter of caring. Good bosses are people who like other people and place confidence in them, according to the findings of the research team. At the same time, many of the managers had an extremely good ability to see themselves from outside, a very useful ability when one depends on getting people “alongside”. Employees regarded such managers as good to work with.
The project was financed principally by the Nordic Council of Ministers, with extra funding provided by the Norwegian Directorate of Labour Inspection.
Aase Dragland | alfa
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy