Managing vs. Thinking at ICBC

An investigation has revealed some dirty goings on at ICBC. Specifically, it targets the corporation’s research facility which was fixing up smashed cars and reselling them to unknowing buyers.

Apparently, to please a government bent on cost cutting, the ICBC board formed a policy to boost revenues from the research facility and other ICBC divisions that had previously been seen as cost centres, not revenue generators.

But a policy is one thing; strategy is another. And there doesn’t appear to have been one here. Instead there was a lot of “management” and, apparently, not much of a plan.

And so, isn’t this a colossal failure by an organization to direct its management properly? Further isn’t it an inevitable result of the quarter-to-quarter, short term, bottom-line-all-the-time mind set that seems to grip too many managers these days?

ICBC isn’t unique in this, of course. Managers in many organizations today, private and public, think only in the short term and in only one way – make the numbers work. They’re constantly trying to please their bosses, who are in turn trying to please investors, or in this case, governments who are getting a little tired of bureaucratic waste.

A “good” manager reads the organizational wind well: And if the organizational culture emphasizes execution and implementation, and not strategy, well that’s what they do.

Truth is, any fool can cut spending – and right now as we enter a downturn, a lot of fools, big and small, are thinking of doing just that – but strategies are what really drive organizations toward the future. Add innovative thinking to that strategizing, and you have a solid plan in place for how to do that.

But because they’re geared to producing long-term value, strategies don’t have immediate impact. So most short-sighted managers don’t want to go near them.

Their job is to manage, not to think.