Last Updated 09 Jul 2021

Planning on the Left Side and Managing on the Right

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Scientists, for long years, have known that the human brain has two distinct hemispheres, each controlling the movements of the opposite side of the body. In the more recent years they have discovered that the two hemispheres of the human brain are specialized in a more fundamental way: the left hemisphere in logical thinking and the right hemisphere in simultaneous processing. The author summarizes the differences as shown in table1. Robert Ornstein, a research psychologist, refers to the linear left hemisphere using synonyms with lightness and thought processes we know in explicit sense.

He associates the right hemisphere with darkness and mysterious thought processes. However he makes a distinction between the people of the West and East pointing out that the - Esoteric psychologies of the East has focused on right-hemispheric consciousness (for example altering pulse rate through meditation) in sharp contrast to Western psychology that has been concerned almost exclusively with left hemispheric consciousness, with logical thought. He also believes that an important key to human consciousness is found in the right hemisphere of the human brain.

He also points out that although we are aware of the thought processes of the left brain we know very little about what our right brain knows. Thus the author believes this to be the reason why people feel delighted when they (their left brains) get to know what their right brains knew throughout impliedly. (c) Differences between formal planning and informal managing - compared to that between the two hemispheres of the human brain, Both planning and management science are sequential, systematic and articulated.

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They do their work through a series of logical, ordered steps, each involving analysis. However the successful application of these techniques requires intuition which means that the manager is deviating from the logical, left brain, analysis. At top management level, where policies are made in an organization, the holistic picture needs to be considered. Thus to effectively manage an organization (after planning using logical analysis) managers rely on judgments given by the right hemisphere of the brain.

The author uses examples of how MIS's and models developed for companies have been accepted with much enthusiasm but used so poorly, by the managers, proving that management is not an analytical, left brain process but an intuitive, right brain process. (d) Management - a right hemisphere activity, The author states that the single fact that recurred in his research is that key managerial tasks, being complex and mysterious, use vague information and least articulated mental processes.

He also says that these processes have characteristics of right brain processes - relational and holistic than ordered and sequential and intuitive than intelligent. He presents the following general findings to support his argument:

  1. Managers at all levels and functions prefer verbal communication over written communication. Ability to read body language and ability to engage in real time exchange of information results in this preference. Both these activities involve relational, simultaneous methods of acquiring information.
  2. The content of manager's information is mostly soft, speculative, impressions/ feelings about people, hearsay and gossip. Analytical inputs such as reports, document and hard data are considered to be of little importance. The managers synthesize instead of analyzing and the results help him understand implicitly the organization and its environment. Managers build mental models and use these models to simulate future outcomes. Managers also use judgments in most instances for important decision making.
  3. A manager, although the best informed member of the organization, has difficulty disseminating information to other employees. Although earlier attributed to information being verbal and dissemination being a time consuming process the new thinking is that the manager may actually be having problems disseminating some relevant information as it is removed form his verbal consciousness.
  4. A manager works in a complex system with little order. He engages in a variety of actions, short in duration and lacks routine in their work, Thus operating in a relational, simultaneous and experiential manner.
  5. Activities of three important roles of a manager - leader, liaison and disturbance handler -remain outside known facts of management, although significant research has been done, proving that they are dependent on intuition and experience.
  6. Two critical steps in strategic decision making - diagnosis and design of custom made solutions- are not mentioned much in literature of planning or management, although all managers engage in these not fully aware as to where and when they happen.
  7. Dynamic factors such as interruptions and time pressures affect the decision making process but go without mention in literature on management. These important factors, involving simultaneous relational modes of thinking, are left for the managers to deal on their own.
  8. Managers, when having to make choices among available options, use analysis, judgment, or bargaining to arrive at the best option. However, judgment is the most popular of the three methods with systematic analysis accounting for only as little as 20% of all decisions made.
  9. Strategy, a mediating force between the dynamic environment and stable operating systems, formulation is an irregular, discontinuous process with fits and starts. Strategic planning does not cope well with these fits and starts and the burden to cope with situations, using intuition and experience, remains with the manager.
  10. Companies that opt for creative, integrated strategies (gestalt strategies) usually rely on one individual to conceptualize them. This is the most demanding holistic, relational, gestalt process which is necessary to deal with a complex environment. Mintzberg thus concludes that: "The important policy level processes required to manage an organization rely to a considerable extent on faculties identified with the brain's right hemisphere.

" He also recognizes that functions of the left brain such as explicit calculations are important for effective management and that all intuitive thinking must be translated to linear order of the left brain if they are to be articulated and put to effective use. He goes on to say that in an organisation right brain activity is more important at higher levels whilst left brain activity is more dominant at lower levels, where policies made at the top are implemented.

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