Conspiring fruitfully with professionals

New management roles for professional organisations

Hans Vermaak, Mathieu Weggeman - Management Decision, 1999

Professionalism still is on the way up. However, the working methods of managers and professionals do not develop at the same pace. Professionals often seek out their workplace within an organisation but then proceed to act as soloists, which makes fragmentation, mediocrity and non-commitment the rule rather than the exception. The manager’s reflex dictates that he/she tackles problems with control and command, resulting in all sorts of conflicts.

It is argued that this dysfunctional habit can be corrected by introducing a clear division of roles: professionals manage the primary process, managers the secondary processes. Peace then will be restored but fragmentation, mediocrity and non-commitment are still evident. We have found heuristically that these core problems only can disappear when professionals and managers tackle them in a concerted action by developing a collective ambition, investing in mutual learning and setting performance standards. Although professionals’ loner genes hold them back in concerted action on these matters, they can overcome this resistance when managers are willing and able to orchestrate a dialogue on these matters. This is a tall order, but the core problems can thus be transformed into inspiration, growth and dedication.