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Management Essentials from AMA Business Boot Camp

Edward T. Reilly, CEO of AMA International, is the editor of the new book AMA Business Bootcamp: Management and Leadership Fundamentals That Will See You Successfully Through Your Career. He spoke to AMA recently for an Edgewise podcast. The following is an edited and condensed version of that interview.

AMA: Why publish this book now?
Ed Reilly: AMA is a wonderful place. I’ve been fortunate to work here for the past 10 years. We have such an incredible wealth of experience and knowledge in terms of developing managers, which we’ve done for almost 90 years now. I felt it was an opportunity for us to take the best of what we do and summarize it in an easy-to-read, concise work that people can look at and draw experience from. Whether they’re new managers who haven’t been exposed to this material before, or experienced managers, they still need to be reminded of the day-in, day-out, blocking and tackling material they need to make their businesses successful.

The intensity of competition and the pace of change are things that have developed in business over the last 10 to 15 years. Globalization and the implementation of technology have made the world a much more competitive place. Competition doesn’t just exist between a limited number of advanced countries, but with people all around the world. Technology has improved the pace of change. We understand things now more rapidly than we ever did before. The consequence is that business has very little time for static activity and refinement. We’re constantly facing change—and that adds pressure.

To be able to face up to change, you have to be able to face up to risk and to deal in risky environments. And that, in turn, creates stress. All the more reason why you need to have the basic skills that are incorporated into this book, because you haven’t got time to think about them on a day-in, day-out basis. Yet you need to be doing them, because there are so many other things you need to deal with at the same time.

AMA: Why is the book titled AMA Business Bootcamp?
ER: Bootcamp carries with it the connotation of a short, sharp transformational period of time. That’s what we are intending to convey here, to provide the basics to transform someone into an experienced, well-informed manager. We want to give people the basics to go forward and build a successful career.

AMA: What are some of the topics covered in the book?
ER: We start with a section on basic management—the blocking and tackling, the planning, organizing, directing, and controlling of a business. We spend some time talking about performance management, how you go about evaluating people, setting goals for them, making sure that they, are in fact, committed to and understand what their role is inside the organization. We have a section on building staff. It’s a constant in today’s environment that you’re hiring people, people are moving on, people are being replaced. Picking the right people and making sure that they fit into the organization is an important issue.

Then there’s project management. Over the past few years we’ve seen our project management practice at AMA grow dramatically. Where once upon a time there were a few highly specialized people who would manage projects, today every manager needs to be familiar with the tenets of project management.

We also talk about strategic thinking—how to think strategically outside the box. Somebody in your organization—and it better be you—needs to be thinking about how you evaluate the longer-term strategy for how we’re going to get things done and where we’re going to go, along with the day-to-day tactics of what we’re going to do actually today. There are lots of ways people have talked about this over the years, but we think more people in organizations need to have a strategy, not necessarily for the entire organization, but for their particular function and their department.

And of course, we talk about leadership. They say that you manage processes and lead people. I think that’s an interesting and apt observation. Since people make all of this happen, the leadership component in your managerial bag of tricks had better be well-developed. We’ve pushed decision making further and further down into organizations, partially because of efficiency purposes, partially because technology enables us to, but, I think, most mportant, it is because decisions need to be made faster and at a level where people have the information that actually deals with those decisions. You can set a policy for customer service, but who are the people you want making decisions about the right thing to do? and  how do you respond to an unhappy customer? You need people much further down inside the organization to be able to do that, and they need to understand what the vision and the mission of the organization is.

AMA: The book covers a lot of ground. Is there one area that is particularly important to you?
ER: I would say it’s the chapter on leadership. It’s kind of a strange thing for the president of American Management Association to say, but I think that although management is absolutely necessary, it is no longer a sufficient skill to be able to win. Managers need to be able to make decisions concerning people that work with them, for them, and around them, often at a split second’s notice, without all the benefits of a rule book. They need to be able to recognize circumstances that are changing and be able to react in the right way. They need to understand their organization’s mission, vision, and values and they need to be committed to those standards.

AMA: Delegation seems to be a major challenge for many managers. Have you seen folks struggling with this?
ER: At AMA we have a number of courses that are aimed at people at a crucial point in their career, when they move from being an individual contributor to a management role, where they are “getting work done through others.” That means delegating tasks to other people. Managers need to learn that their own capabilities, strong as they may be, have gotten them to the point where they’re now going to be responsible for the work of others. Their job is now to make that happen, to be able to get their people to perform so they can reach the next level.

AMA: What do you hope readers will take away from AMA Business Boot Camp?
ER: That although we face incredible challenges, there are also incredible opportunities that lie before us. I believe that our society benefits greatly from the efforts of the commercial activity in the United States. We produce goods, services, healthcare, material goods, as well as emotional goods for people in the United States, and we need to make sure we get it right. We need our organizations to be performing at a high level of productivity. And that’s not going to happen unless all the managers and all the leaders who operate those businesses do so at peak performance. I’m hopeful that a number of people will read this book and pick up the skills that are necessary to help them perform better, so that in turn, their organizations will produce better results.

Learn more about AMA Business Bootcamp: Management and Leadership Fundamentals That Will See You Successfully Through Your Career (AMACOM, 2012).