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A Comparative Analysis of Managerial Attributes
in Five Different Agencies of Rural Development

MJ Arul

Working Paper #51
(Available at Institute of Rural Management Anand,India 388 001.)

February 1994

Abstract

This paper explores the presence of eleven managerial attributes in five groups of managers engaged in various aspects of rural development in India. The managers studied are from the cooperative dairy sector, the cooperative fertiliser sector, Gujarat Forest Department, the Indian Administrative Service and nongovernmental organisations. By a comparative analysis of data from a self-assessment questionnaire, the paper identifies sets of attributes that charaterise the problem-solving behaviour of each group of managers. The findings suggest that in solving their problems, the dairy managers depend on their sensitivity to events, mental agility, social skills, proactivity, and command of basic facts in that order of significance. The fertiliser managers do so on proactivity, sensitivity to events and relevant professional knowledge, in that order. The forest department officers rely on creativity, command of basic facts and social skills. Problem solving by nongovernmental development managers is characterised by relevant professional knowledge and mental agility. The IAS officers solve problems predominantly on the basis of their command of basic facts, reinforced by proactivity.


Introduction

India is predominantly rural and rural development is a priority area in the country. It takes no proof or argument today to establish the need for good management in any organised activity. Rural development being an organised activity of a complex nature, it would demand, inter alia, good management for it to be effective. Functionaries involved in this activity, therefore, must possess managerial abilities.

Among the various agents of rural development are the cooperatives, the voluntary or nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), the bureaucracy and, lately also, the forest departments. Of the various kinds of rural cooperatives, the dairy cooperatives have come to stay in India, thanks to a massive national dairy development programme called Operation Flood. Nongovernment organisations engaged in rural development in the country are a legion, who, besides doing various developmental projects of their own, are being increasingly called upon to implement many of the government's rural development projects. As for the bureaucracy, the district collectors from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) have a consequencial say in what happens or does not happen in the district. With the advent of programmes like Social Forestry, the forest departments have also entered the arena. All these agents of development must manage their respective activities effectively in order to achieve the objective of rural development. This paper attempts to take a glance at some of the managerial attributes obtaining in these agencies.

Managerial Attributes: A Review

What makes a good manager? What characteristics contribute to managerial effectiveness? The answer could come from an understanding of either what managers actually do or what they are expected to do. In other words, an understanding of the managerial role(s) would help identify the requisite attributes of a manager.

In order to achieve certain objectives, the manager in an organisation is invested with formal authority and status, giving rise to roles: "With authority comes status; the status leads to various interpersonal relationships, which influence access to information; and information enables the manager to make decisions and strategies." Following this line of argument, Mintzberg (1975) in his analysis of the manager's job, both folklore and fact, identifies ten roles managers play: three interpersonal roles (figurehead, leader and liaison), three informational roles (monitor, disseminator and spokesman) and four decisional roles (entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator). He suggested the following eight skills as critical for effective performance in the above cited roles: Peer relations, leadership, conflict resolution, decision making under ambiguity, information processing, resource allocation, entrepreneurship and introspection.

Bennis (1984), in his five-year longitudinal study of successful managers in the public and private sectors, discovered four common traits or competencies in them: Management of attention (Good managers hold a compelling vision that can mobilise action), Management of meaning (To make their vision apparent to others, good managers communicate effectively so that followers personally enroll in the vision), Management of trust (Good managers are ideologically and/or behaviourally consistent over time and people can count on them), and Management of self(Good managers know themselves and employ their strengths and skills effectively).

Robert Katz (1974) identified three broad categories of skills as necessary for an effective manager: the technical, the human, and the conceptual skills. The technical refers to skills for dealing with "things" and subject specialties, while the human refers to skills related to the various aspects of dealing with people. The conceptual involves clarity of thought and the ability to see the enterprise as a whole and in the perspective of the industry and the nation.

Rao and Selvan (1992) in their study of the strengths and weaknesses of senior executives in India found six categories of characteristics that were most frequently mentioned by senior executives as contributing to managerial effectiveness. The categories were: i. Technical competence (good understanding of the job and qualifications), 2. Systems competence (analytical and problem-solving skills, work planning and work organisation, and result orientation), 3. Interpersonal skills, 4. Group/team-building competence, 5. Leadership and 6. Other personal characteristics (hard work, commitment, etc.).

Pedler and his colleagues (1986) identified 11 attributes which they found were possessed by successful managers and lacking in not-so-successful managers -- across organisations. These were: command of basic facts, relevant professional knowledge, continuing sensitivity to events, analytical and problemsolving skills, social skills, emotional resilience, proactivity, creativity, mental agility, balanced learning skills and habits, and self-knowledge. A list of these attributes, along with a brief explanation of each of them, is given in Appendix.

These 11 attributes virtually subsume the various skills and competencies suggested by the other studies and, as such, they present themselves as useful variables in a study of managers qua managers across organisations. The present study explores the presence of these attributes in five groups of managers.

The Sample

The sample for the study consisted of the following: 146 managers from more than 40 District Cooperative Milk Unions in the country; 30 Area Managers of the Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) and 22 of the Krishak Bharati cooperative (KRIBHCO), totalling 52 respondents from India's only two fertiliser cooperatives; Conservators and Assistant Conservators of Forests, totalling 50 from all the Circles of Gujarat Forest Department; 41 officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) from 10 states of the country; and 39 project managers from 23 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The sample size was, thus, 328.

Data Collection

The data used in this paper came actually as a by-product of a diagnostic exercise that was part of the management development programmes (MDPs) which the respondents attended. The self-diagnostic purpose, the contingent power of the instrument and the confidential nature of data processing and feedback were explained to the participants. The purpose of the exercise was to help the participants explore themselves in a methodic way so as to enable them to reflect on and use the emergent data for their self-development.

Pedler's (1986) Self-Assessment Questionnaire was used for the purpose of eliciting data. The participants responded to items in terms of how often (a for never, b for sometimes, c for often and d for nearly always) they felt or behaved the way as described by the various items. With 10 items per attribute, there were 110 items in all. Here is a sample: "I don't have a clear understanding of how my organisation works; I find that I do not know enough about the technical aspects of my job; I am not able to pick up quickly whatever is going on around me; I have difficulty in analysing a situation into its various aspects; I find that other people don't listen to me properly; I have difficulty in sleeping at night; I respond to pressures of the instant, thus losing sight of longer-term considerations; I find it difficult to come up with new ideas; I have difficulty in thinking on my feet in tricky situations; I'm not able to convert my experiences into valid theories; I don't spend time thinking about myself -- my strengths and weaknesses;..... "

Although the whole exercise was undergone for purposes of self-diagnosis, self-analysis and self-development of the participant managers, what emerged in the process seemed to have a much wider relevance and utility; the significance of the data at hand appeared too valuable to ignore: The self-diagnostic atmosphere of the exercise seemed to warrant in the responses a shade of authenticity that would normally elude such self-reports given in response to formally designed research attempts.

Methods of Analysis

An earlier study by Arul (1989), using the same instrument, followed the scoring method recommended by Pedler for purposes of self-analysis, where every a was awarded a score of 2, every b a score of 1, c a score of 2 and d a score of 3. By that method, a higher score would stand for a lower presence of the attribute in the person. The method had a specific relevance and spice for self-development purposes. For the purposes of the current analysis, however, a modified method of scoring was adjudged more appropriate: The responses were scored by assigning 4 points for every a, 3 points for b, 2 points for c and 1 point for d. Thus, in this study, the maximum possible score for any attribute would be 40, meaning a very high perceived presence of the attribute in the respondent, and the possible minimum would be 10, meaning a very low perceived presence of the attribute.

For a preliminary comparison of the various groups of managers on how they view their own strengths with respect to the 11 managerial attributes, the raw scores for each attribute were first converted into ranks and then median ranks computed for each attribute in the respective groups. Median rank 1 would mean here that the particular group regards the corresponding managerial attribute as its most dominant strength while the attribute receiving a median rank of 11 would be the least of the group's perceived strengths.

After the preliminary comparison of median ranks, the data were subjected to further analyses by preliminary statistics, Pearson's correlations, analysis of variance and multiple regression.

Results and Discussion

Table 1 shows the rank ordering of the managerial attributes in the five groups of managers. Overall, the rural sector managers perceive themselves to be strongest in creativity and command of basic facts related to the job (ranks 1 and 2) and fairly strong in problem solving (rank 3) and continuing sensitivity to events (rank 4). They perceive themselves to be poorest in balanced learning habits and relevant professional knowledge (the two bottom-most ranks of 11 and 10) and fairly poor at mental agility and proactivity, ranked 9 and 8 respectively.

Looking at the ranks across the groups, we find that all the groups uniformly report balanced learning habits as their most lacking attribute. While all the groups perceive themselves as low in relevant professional knowledge, the IAS and the NGOs perceive it to be their second-most lacking attribute. Mental agility ranks low in all groups and even lower in the dairy and forest department groups. As for proactivity, the fertiliser coops think they lack it highly, while the IAS think of themselves as fairly proactive.

The NGOs consider themselves as strongest in continuing sensitivity to events, but fairly poor, unlike other groups, in analytical and problem-solving skills.

While the ranks of attributes can be meaningfully compared within a group, comparison of rank differences for an attribute across groups may not be as meaningful. Analyses of the raw scores may be more appropriate for inter-group comparisons.

Table 1: Median Ranks of Managerial Attributes in Five Groups of Managers

Group--->

Dairy

(n=146)

Ferti.

(n=52)

GFD

(n=50)

IAS

(n=41)

NGO

(n=39)

All

(N=328)

1. Command of basic facts

1

1

3

3

2

2

2. Relevant professional knowledge

9

8

9

10

10

10

3. Continuing sensitivity to events

4

3

4

4

1

4

4. Analytical problem-solving

2

4

2

1

7

3

5. Social skills

5

5

5

5

5

5

6. Emotional resilience

6

7

6

7

6

7

7. Proactivity

8

10

8

6

8

8

8.Creativity

3

2

1

2

3

1

9. Mental agility

10

9

10

9

9

9

10. Balanced learning habits

11

11

11

11

11

11

11. Self-knowledge

7

6

7

8

4

6

We may first examine how the managerial attributes relate amongst themselves in the five groups of managers. The results of Pearson's correlational analysis are presented in Tables 2a to 2c. Each triangular matrix there refers to a particular respondent group. A scrutiny of the matrices reveals that the attribute with which problem solving (PS) is most closely associated (p <.001) differs from group to group, as shown below:

Group & Table #...... PS most highly associated with... r-Value

Dairy (2a, Upper)... Social skills ................... 0.66

Fert. (2a, Lower)... Proactivity ..................... 0.67

Forest(2b, Upper)... Creativity ...................... 0.53

IAS (2b, Lower)..... Command of basic facts .......... 0.69

NGOs (2c)........... Professional knowledge .......... 0.59

_________________________________________________________________

Table 2a : Correlation Coefficients of Managerial Attributes
(Dairy & Ferti. groups)

SK1SK2SK3SK4SK5SK6SK7SK8SK9SK10SK11
SK1--.38.56.57.60.34.41.28.42.36.26*
SK2.54--.39.34.36.41.33.23*.40.34.20ns
SK3.54.46--.65.66.45.41.49.49.29.36
SK4.37*.44.57-- .66 .46.55.53.57.45.29
SK5.40*.24ns.57.56--.48.55.52.54.40.37
SK6.23ns.34ns.42*.42*.34ns--.40.35.48.40.41
SK7.23ns.21ns.38*.67.62.34ns--.56.48.43.34
SK8.32ns.41*.53.56.60.33ns.47--.45.42.28
SK9.45.39*.47.43*.41*.24ns.45.21ns--.46.19ns
SK10.21ns.28ns.45.32ns.40*.13ns.32ns.37*.58--.31
SK11.26ns.25ns.22ns.29ns.29ns.29ns.25ns.14ns.18ns.16ns--
Upper triangular matrix = Dairy group: N = 146.
Lower triangular matrix = Fertiliser group: N = 52.
Unmarked numbers = p<.001; * = p<.01; ns = not significant.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Table 2b: Correlation Coefficients of Managerial Attributes
(Forest & IAS groups)

SK1SK2SK3SK4SK5SK6SK7SK8SK9SK10SK11
SK1--.61**.44*.42*.24-.08-.07.28.23-.12.17
SK2.52**--.36*.32.44*.24.23.32.29.18.36*
SK3.69**.27--.45**.39*.05.30.40*.45**.11.14
SK4 .69** .32.53**--.48**.30.31 .53** .36-.04.20
SK5.59**.16.63**.55**--.45*.35.46**.24.11.13
SK6.32.09.43*.32.36--.35.29.24.21.24
SK7.39.24.32.51**.44*.30--.38*.18.14-.04
SK8.53**.35.45*.55**.41*.38.66**--.52**.09.01
SK9.25.14.27.43*.16.35.36.51**--.31.04
SK10.18.03.05.31.18.19.27.13.32--.29
SK11.07-.13.17.19.23.46*.37.43*.27.35--
Upper triangular matrix = Gujarat Forest Deptt.: N = 50.
Lower triangular matrix = The IAS group: N = 41.
* = p<.01; ** = p<.001
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Table 2c: Correlation Coefficients of Managerial Attributes (NGO group)
_______________________________________________________
.... SK1,SK2,SK3,SK4,SK5,SK6, SK7, SK8, SK9, SK10, SK11
_______________________________________________________
SK1 --

SK2 .24 --

SK3 .53**.42* --

SK4 .23 .59** .49* --

SK5 .43* .32 .66**.47* --

SK6 .12 .32 .53**.45*.67** --

SK7 .33 .24 .44* .43* .64**.43* --

SK8 .52**.40 .60**.45*.53** 50* .50* --

SK9 .39 .42* .57**.55**.69**.55**.52**.56** --

SK10 .20 0.22 0.22 0.40 0.31 0.32 0.35 0.09 0.35 --

SK11 .30 0.50* 0.36 0.23 0.28 0.29 0.34 .43* .44* .24 --
--------------------------------------------------------
NGO group: N = 39. * = p<.01; ** = p<.001.
--------------------------------------------------------

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