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Managing problems

  ``Management must manage'' was the motto of Harold Geneen,  who built ITT from an obscure international telephone company into the prototype of the multinational conglomerate. What Geneen meant by this is that the art of the manager is coming to terms with whatever situations develop in the course of running a business and choosing the course of action that makes the best of each.

The world of the manager is one of problems and opportunities. Problems are to be managed; one must understand the nature of the problem, amass resources adequate to deal with it, and ``work the problem'' on an ongoing basis. Opportunities are merely problems that promise to pay off after sufficient work.

Managers are not schooled in radical change. The elimination of entire industries and their replacement with others, the obsolescence of established products in periods measured in months, the consequences of continued exponential growth in technology are all foreign to the manager. Presented with a problem, an expert manager can quickly grasp its essence and begin to formulate a plan to manage the problem on an ongoing basis.

But what if the problem can be fixed? This is not the domain of the manager.

By John Walker