What's your problem?

I RUN THE DIVISION BUT THEY MAKE THE DECISIONS. I run a semi-autonomous division of a large company. We are performing adequately in financial terms, although we could probably do better. We have recently come under scrutiny by some of the company's senior managers, who believe that our division needs a serious overhaul.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

This may be true, but I hate the fact that most decisions are taken behind closed doors and I am informed of them rather than being involved in them. It's hard to run something when the controls are taken out of one's hands. Is there a way to bridge this 'them and us' situation without alienating the senior managers?

A: I don't like the sound of 'semi-autonomous'. It's not exactly half-pregnant but it's heading that way. It certainly opens the door to endless ambiguities and fuzzily defined areas of responsibility.

Much your best chance is to reclaim the initiative - which you've clearly lost. You say your division is performing 'adequately' - another ominous word. There's not much space between adequate and inadequate. You also say it could probably do better. So what are you going to do to make sure that it does? Draw up a proper business plan, with benchmarks, action points and milestones. Make sure it's tough but achievable. Ask for a meeting with those senior managers, present your plan and request their authority to proceed.

You certainly can't be criticised for trying to take management back into your own hands; it's what you think and hope you're paid for. And their response to your proposals should settle the definition of semi-autonomous once and for all. Just don't expect autonomy to be granted as a right. It has to be earned.

Please address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: Management Today, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP. Or e-mail: management.today@haynet.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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