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There is a fairly popular belief about management, held largely by nonmanagers, would-be managers, and inexperienced managers, that management is something that anyone can do. It would seem as though one need only put one's mind to the task and simply begin managing.


Part of the anyone-can-manage attitude seems founded on the belief that anyone who is skilled and experienced at a particular line of work should automatically be able to manage at least that line of work and perhaps related or even unrelated activities as well. After all, as the successful cook might reason, I am a skilled chef, extremely knowledgeable of the field, so who else is better suited to manage the restaurant? Perhaps the physician might reason: as a skilled medical practitioner, am I not also well suited to manage the medical center? And how many successful police officers do not think of themselves as someday being sergeants or lieutenants or holding other leadership positions?


The anyone-can-do-it attitude is common, and it is understandable. It is also dead wrong. Yet, few people who have actually cooked, practiced medicine, or solved crimes would automatically rule themselves out as managers in their chosen fields. And not many of those chefs, physicians, or police officers, when asked if they could manage the restaurant, the medical center, or the police department, are likely to be so self-doubting as to say absolutely not. Even the least confident might respond with, "I don't know-I haven't tried." A great many of those who are asked will simply deliver a confident "yes" when asked about managing within their own specialties.


Consider a question related to each of the aforementioned occupational specialties: can you make a Yorkshire pudding, remove an appendix, or secure a crime scene? With few exceptions, the only credible positive responses come from the chef, the physician, and the police officer. Someone of an entirely different background would not be likely to respond positively to the foregoing questions, but people of these and many other occupations would and readily do say yes when asked if they can manage.


We certainly do not take the anyone-can-do-it attitude toward any special activity that requires some recognizable degree of skill, education, or training. Why then do so many people take the everyone-can-do-it view of management?


Perhaps the attitude developed because management does not stand particularly well as an occupational field in its own right. You can be a specialist of some kind-perhaps, chef, physician, nurse, accountant, laboratory technologist, or whatever-without being a manager and without being concerned with management at all except in a very limited sense (as applies to the "management" of your own time, talents, and resources). However, you cannot very well be a manager without having some kind of activity to manage. Certainly, in most first-line management positions, you cannot be a manager without considerable working knowledge of the activities under your charge, and most of this knowledge comes from your own training and experience in performing the activities you are now expected to manage.


It is through active management practice, often not easy or especially pleasant, that we learn the fallacy of the anyone-can-do-it attitude. We learn also that we may have been trapped by the fallacy simply because our organizations made most of us into managers without benefit of any special preparation. We have all seen and appreciated the time spent and the special education we acquired in the process of entering our working specialties. However, because we have also seen the time and preparation involved in moving into management-often as little time as it takes to decide on and announce a promotion, and no preparation beyond that-can we be blamed for gravitating toward the anyone-can-do-it attitude?


No, it is certainly not true that just anyone can manage. However, it is generally true that managers are expected to fill an important role with minimal or no preparation for doing so. Some of our work organizations do make continuing management education available, but most of this occurs after promotion to management, not before, and much of what we do receive is inappropriately targeted (giving us "processes" like planning, delegation, and the like, when what we need most is refined human relations skills).


Management is a true second career, a career for which the first-line manager largely prepares for by way of on-the-job self-directed training. The manager who believes this statement will be in a natural learning mode and will thus be in a position to learn from all that happens on the job or related to the job in any way.


This issue of The Health Care Manager (24:4, October-December 2005) offers the following for the reader's consideration:


* "Not-For-Profit Versus For-Profit Health Care Providers: Comparing and Contrasting Their Records" compares and contrasts the performance records of not-for-profit health care providers with that of their counterparts in the for-profit arena. In this issue, part I provides the background information essential to understanding the comparisons that follow.


* "The Lost Art of the Covenant: Trust as a Commodity in Health Care" argues that a relationship of trust must be built on the style and quality of verbal and nonverbal communication, and that trust in health care is an expectation resulting from an interactive process of human concern and caring.


* "Medicare: The Development of Publicly Financed Health Insurance" is the first in a 3-article series addressing health care reimbursement. This first part relates Medicare's beginnings and development and provides insight into the future possibility of national health insurance, serving as an introduction to the complex realities of health care reimbursement.


* "Importance x Dissatisfaction = A Formula for Managerial Action" suggests that employee satisfaction surveys could be considerably more effective if they used rank ordering of the importance of various issues to employees as well as addressing the employees' relative satisfaction with how these issues are addressed.


* "Attrition in Nursing: Perspectives From the National Survey of College Graduates" examines various scenarios and possible reasons why some nurses abandon their careers, looking at entry into and attrition from the nursing profession at various career stages.


* Case in Health Care Management: "Looking for Boundaries" asks the reader to consider how an individual manager might go about establishing the limits of his or her authority while reporting to a superior who has not provided clear limits and whose expectations of subordinate managers appear hazy.


* "College on the Internet" advises health care personnel of what to expect when addressing the increasingly popular online degree programs available to working people for the furtherance of professional education while continuing regular employment.


* "When Nursing Students Are Culturally Diverse" recognizes that diversity among nursing students is steadily increasing, that traditional educational strategies will no longer work for everyone, and that strategies must be selected specifically to meet the needs of the students.


* "Escaping the Box: Preparing Allied Health Practitioners for Management Positions" suggests how manager and clinician can work together to frame a development plan that will build upon an individual's strengths while developing specific areas of need.


* "Genesis of a Professional Development Tool for Ambulatory Pediatric Nursing Practice" describes how a group of nurses at a particular hospital used a known development process to generate behaviors evolving from novice to expert within the domains of nursing practice as outlined in the applicable job descriptions.


* "Winning Loyalty With a Vision and a Corporate Soul" suggests that essential to a health care organization's vision is the development of a corporate soul that embraces the intangibles of the human spirit and senses the needs of others through meaning, purpose, empathy, caring, and sharing.