Beyond the Build


Playbooks vs. Torpedoes: Which Management Style Wins?

Peter Drucker, a great thinker in management theory and practice, was often quoted on the importance of shaping “the futures that have already happened.” As we are seeing this Recession in the rear view mirror, we are thinking more about this aspect of our company.

Is our procedural playbook thick enough? At times would a “Damn the Torpedoes” attitude better serve us?

Last week I had lunch with the former division president of a billion dollar a year company. When my friend ran the company he looked for entrepreneurial managers who understood the bottom line and respected administrative procedures at the same time, but never let “the rules” get in the way of solid customer service. They were successful.

All other things being equal, the difference in companies from the middle to the top in their fields is quality talent and leadership. This means giving the horse its head, then trusting it to pick its speed and way. I like to think we hire entrepreneurial managers, so which style do we need most going forward? Playbook or Torpedo?

Here is how I think customer relationships are best served:

Hire “get it done” types. Ensure they are technically savvy, have a respect for business ethics and understand the law. Managers and craftsmen should be adaptable.

Trust in them to do it right. Giving them leeway to do things as they see fit and don’t burden them with red tape.

Maintain a fairly flat organization profile.

Which management category does your organization fit? How are you looking to the futures that have already happened?

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.