Picture this: 450, kindergarten through 4th grade kids and 4 adults. Now imagine those kids in groups of 50-75 charging through an obstacle course scattered about an open field. Instructions were given and the kids were asked to "follow the leader" but like kittens, children have minds of their own and an attention span that matches. It didn't take long for things to get a wee bit out of hand but all you could do was laugh. After all, the purpose of this exercise was to get the kids out and active and that's just what happened.
Now picture this: a company is struggling to meet a production deadline. Everyone knows what they have to do, all the equipment and resources are in place AND YET the deadline will pass before the task is complete. Two scenarios, some basic similarities and vastly different consequences.
Have you ever felt as if you were herding kittens? You truly believe that everything is as it should be, yet still things don't work out? You're not alone. These kids were not emotionally mature enough to grasp instruction, but we (the adults) quickly realized we were poor managers and that we were partly to blame for the outcome. We took the first group of kids, sat them down and told them what we were going to do. As soon as they set off on the course the mayhem began. What was to be a follow the leader game became a race over a course that was well outside our boundaries. Our mistake? Thinking we could manage a group of this size. We simply underestimated the task we'd taken on. The subsequent groups were considerably smaller AND we recruited the aid of their teachers (trusted managers) to navigate the course. The result? Well, it wasn't perfect but it was a lot better than our first attempt.
The moral to the story (have you heard that since grammar school?) is that good management requires diligence. A good manager is not omniscient but does possess vision, is acutely aware (or actively informed) of conditions that require intervention and is prepared to initiate action. Will the good manager always keep the herd under control? Maybe not, but by remaining vigilant the good manager will always be prepared to step in before things start running amok.