Can you, in a single sentence, explain the difference between an administrator and a manager? The obvious way of putting it is simply: managers help create effective organizations– at least that’s the definition that Mark McDonald uses. According to McDonald, too many managers are acting as administrators: they know what needs to be done, and make sure those things are running as they did yesterday. This doesn’t add value to the company, and it’s not what a manger should be focusing on:
Administration is important and necessary, but when management becomes dominated by administration we undercut the value, status and importance of true management. We turn true managers from a source of enterprise adaptability, experience and energy into a cadre of clerks that we despise. Most young people do not aspire to be managers as they see the work as old fashioned, demeaning and not interesting. I think that they do not aspire to be administrators, and if you described the work of a management accurately they would say that’s for me.
The work of management, I believe, is inherently contextual, semi-structured, filled with gray areas and the need for judgment. Managers create effective organizations. They are the professionals who create adaptability based on recognizing and responding to factors that do not fit the plan. Administrators work that plan.
McDonald states that “organizations are efficient when administrators do a good job of administering”, and that those same organizations become effective and adaptive when managers are able to manage. To become transformational, organizations needs to have leaders who are willing to define and support both administrators and managers.