Is management by objectives the wrong managerial approach?

Many companies are results oriented, particularly in today's uncertain economic landscape. Businesses do what they can to keep up in an aggressive market, and as long as everyone involved gets the job done no one complains. This has resulted in the management style referred to as MBO — management by objectives. 

Those who follow this style task their employees with certain outcomes and allow them to complete them by whatever means necessary. As long as the finished product is what they are looking for, they pay no attention to how the job is done. While this sounds like a sound strategy on the surface, could it ultimately cause more problems in the future?

This was addressed in a recent Business World article that suggested MBO is a flawed managerial style, mainly because it assumes that employees are going to take the best route to finish their tasks. 

"Management by Objectives assume that given a target, every subordinate will take the correct steps to achieve it," the article says. "The details of how he achieves the end result are known only to the subordinate, the management doesn't get into these details. And so, every manager down the line adopts the same style of functioning. At the lowest level, workers have limited ability to manipulate outcomes, and so they too take shortcuts, making MBO a widely popular approach."

The reality is that MBO may give employees too much flexibility, which can backfire if they end up using inefficient methods to get the job done. Giving more direction can help ensure not only the job is done, but in a manner that limits the use of resources and allows more time for additional projects.

Of course, this strategy will have to be managed carefully as to not come across as unneccessary micro management, which can hurt morale. There has to be a strong combination of freedom and direction. Working with an executive and senior management search firm can find the right people to initiate the best managerial style.