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TMT Perspectives Insight & Commentary on Business, Legal and Policy Developments Affecting the Telecom, Media, and Technology Sectors

What Is Management? Are You a Manager or a Contributor?

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dv2171020My experience tells me that many managers have never asked themselves, “What is management?”

I don’t know Ben Horowitz, cofounder and Partner of Andreesson Horowitz, or Andy Grove, retired CEO of Intel, and I’ve never read Grove’s 1995 book, High Output Management, though it was recommended to me just last month. But in a recent blog, Ben introduced HOM by noting how simply Andy defined management.

Ben says that Andy introduces management with this classic equation:

 A manager’s output = the output of his organization + the output of the neighboring organizations under his influence.

Ben continues:

On the surface it may seem simple, but [Andy] clarifies the essential difference between a manager and an individual contributor. A manager’s skills and knowledge are only valuable if she uses them to get more leverage from her people. So, Ms. Manager, you know more about our product’s viral loop than anyone in the company? That’s worth exactly nothing unless you can effectively transfer that knowledge to the rest of the organization. That’s what being a manager is about. It’s not about how smart you are or how well you know your business; it’s about how that translates to the team’s performance and output.

This lesson often seems overlooked, particularly in high performing service industries (such as accounting and law, and maybe software development).

Highly trained professionals are often committed to the notion that individual performance is the goal, rather than simply a condition necessary to achieving the goal. Understanding this is probably a first step toward successful management in such sectors.

Are you a contributor or a manager? And are you comfortable with the answer to that question?