One of the brilliant minds in matters of leadership and organizations and such is Dale Dauten. Here’s a column he wrote several years ago which says more in a few hundred words than most books on the subject. I’ve been passing it on to my clients for years. (Check out Dale‘s website!)
Understand just one truth–eight words–and all that has happened to Corporate America in the past two decades will become clear.
The truth is this: There is no such thing as good management.
There are good products, good employees, good customers, but no good management. Yes, there are people who are good at being managers, and yes, a company needs management, but every minute devoted to managing is a wasted minute. Let’s look at some common management minutes.
(1) Supervising: The classic role of a manager is telling underlings what to do and then checking up to make sure they do it. This isn’t real work, its just making sure that real work happens. And then there are assistants to the checker-uppers and checker-upper seminars and national checker-upper conferences to attend. The old organizational structure, based on the military model, assumes that nobody wants to be there, nobody can be trusted, and that redundancies are important because you never know when large numbers of the force are going to turn up dead.
On the other hand, the new organization finds the right employees, puts them in the right system, and supervision is unnecessary. In other words,the time spent managing employees is one measure of the failure of hiring and organizing.
A retired banker, Tommy Ott, recently wrote to tell me of his Jell-O Theory of Management. He says: A cube of Jell-O in an open hand will stay in place, but if a fist is clenched, the Jell-O will run out between the fingers. This also tends to be true in marriages and other relationships.
A leader sets a good example. A manager makes rules. If the example is good enough, you don’t need rules. In other words, management fills a leadership vacuum.
(2) Training: The word training is an insult. You don’t train people; you train dogs. The thriving organization doesn’t have dogs, its made up of cats and robots. The robots do all the routine mindless work; the cats are busy being curious and don’t do what you tell them to, anyway.
You don’t train people, you educate them. In fact, you don’t educate them, they educate themselves. You put them in with their peers, and they catch on.
The biggest irony is the training fad “empowerment.” Take away management, and what’s left? Empowerment. Management is “depowerment.”
(3) Planning: Dead organizations tell no lies. The better the planning, the less healthy the organization. Surprise is a measure of growth. Leaders dream; managers plan. If the dream is big enough, planning is impossible. Dreamer companies are so creative that they will evolve in unpredictable spurts. The entire organization is a laboratory of constant experimentation. No one knows where the breakthroughs will come, or when.
And, if you can’t plan, you can’t budget. In a healthy organization, various groups compete for funds. Employees become geniuses at finding money for their projects and at implementing them cheaply. They cut costs for the sake of their projects, not for the sake of budgets.
The upshot is this: Thriving organizations aren’t managed. As soon as you try to manage an organization, to get it under control, it has begun to die. The less time spent supervising, training, and planning, the better. Which is another way of saying that the ideal time devoted to managing is zero.
There is no such thing as good management.