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Making a case for holistic management

Jan 1, 2006 12:00 AM

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Gorelick's Managment

Segmentational is a word you won’t find in any dictionary, but the word is helpful in explaining and exploring the management mindsets I observe in an industry grappling to deal with the changing buyer-seller landscape.

In our everyday consulting activities, I observe two general management philosophies:

  • Segmentational Management. This philosophy seems to emanate from the rationale of the U.S. government. Checks and balances between the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government might be effective in terms of public governance and have been adopted by many corporate cultures in terms of a balancing act between sales, manufacturing and finance/administrative interests.
  • Holistic Management. This philosophy is that the corporate entity has one over-arching differentiated mission/strategy/direction, and that the sales, manufacturing, and finance/administrative areas of a company should look beyond departmental interests and contribute to the “greater corporate good.”
This distinction is not hair splitting. My experience is that very few companies fall outside either of these two categories.

Management on a mission
Holistic management is characterized by a strong owner or chief executive. “Strong” should not be interpreted as overbearing, authoritarian or involved in day-to-day details. Instead, it should be interpreted as an executive who has made difficult strategic decisions after reading, studying and listening to the opinions and perceptions of staff, competitors, suppliers and (especially) customers.

I define a functional holistically-managed company as an organization in which every employee faced with a judgmental decision knows how the chief executive would want him or her to act. Senior managers view themselves as guardians of the organization’s differentiated mission and culture who happen to supervise a functional area of the company, not as junkyard dogs defending the parochial interests of a department. Segmentational management, on the other hand, is based on the assumption that the functional areas of a graphic arts company have separate, irreconcilable interests. The implication is that sales and manufacturing areas are inherently antagonistic and that the financial-administration area is the scorekeeper monitoring the other two areas to keep their profligacy in line. In this environment, the mission often is mistakenly seen as keeping the peace. There is a giant organizational sigh of relief if a month is profitable, inter-departmental warfare is kept to a minimum and customer dissatisfaction is minimized.

The purpose of a company needs to extend beyond internal order-processing efficiences and interdepartmental peace.

Measuring success
A manager or owner who can deal with these issues while staying focused on a mission designed to provide unique, credible, meaningful value to one or more targeted segments of the buying community provides the organization with purpose, in addition to peace. Most important, it is an achievable purpose that is the bedrock of that abstract term called “culture”—the mission, value system, and ethic that differentiates an organization.

Segmentational management is easier to quantifiably measure. The key metrics include sales figures, workflow efficiencies and value-added sales. Holistic management measures these factors but does not forget about the most important metrics: feedback from customers.

I find it appalling that most print companies claiming to be customer-centric do not budget for, or conduct, a third-party annual customer survey. The results help build and reinforce a holistic operations approach.

Segmentational management can be compared to playing chess with an aggressive game plan—but not paying attention to the moves or intentions of the opponent. Holistic management, on the other hand, provides a common organizational focus and refuses to acknowledge the inevitability of departmental conflict. Segmentational management is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It breeds internal conflict, albeit innocently.

To readers who have concluded that I’m living in a dream world, the answer is, “Yes”—I do work with very successful print companies who live and breathe holistic management. It takes emotional, not simply financial, commitment. It is success-fully practiced by companies of all sizes and in all regions of the country. Its chief determinant is the will to address strategic issues, get beyond the urgent and seriously address the important.

Dick Gorelick is president of Gorelick & Associates and the Graphic Arts Sales Foundation. He can be reached at

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