The cancer of Management


Today with Jack, as corporate advisors, we have met and dealt with hundreds if not thousands of managers at all levels of the organisation over a total of 60 years between us.

When we reflect on them and their performance, and despite their general desire to perform well for their employer (and its shareholders), we can’t help but hold an uncharitable view of the management community.

1. It is the rare manager indeed, who will welcome attitudes and opinions that flag dangers to the organisations. By implications, those negative opinions might create a perception of that manager as lacking skills because they should have identified and dealt with the issue or danger themselves.

It is a threat to the manager and will in most cases be rejected by the manager. Consultants who ‘tell it how it is’ experience this all the time. The consultant or advisor might be blamed for not selling the problem effectively, and we are sure that happens all the time (us included); but the core issue still remains.

We frequently see CEOs who are in denial, suffer from poor self-image, lack rounded CEO-skills, are insecure, or who run away from inevitable confrontation. A recent large client (listed and multi-billion dollar market capitalisation) has an express train headed for it and the CEO believes that it is merely the light at the end of the tunnel – and refuses to see the light for what it is – a train wreck coming fast.

2. If the organisation appears to be travelling well now, then there is a ‘filter of denial’ that rejects the possibility that it will not always be so. It is more convenient to believe that ‘what is now’ is ‘what will be forever’. Left-brainers have an inherent difficulty in envisioning the future – they see it all through the lens of a technical or process-based fix – rather than a fundamental change that threatens most things (everything?) about what exists in their organisation today.

Technically proficient people who have moved up the organisation typically see all through their technical filter, commonly to the detriment of core aspects of the organisation.

3. Ego is schizophrenic. Sometimes the need to satisfy one’s ego pushes one to perform extraordinarily. And sometimes ego poisons judgement, distorts reality, and causes behaviour that belittles others in order to aggrandize or preserve self. Ego-preservation is the buffer that regularly deadens wise words that come to the ears of managers. If this happens often enough, people notice. And if people notice, they don’t bother conveying wise words.

4. All managers are influenced by their own subjectivity – after all, most of them are merely human.

5. Very few managers, if any, have sufficiently diverse and deep skills to enable them to operate perfectly in every context or in every position on the corporate industry lifecycle.

6. Commonly, the managers who are skilled at changing the organisation (i.e. undertaking ‘revolutionary change’) are not the managers the corporation needs for steady and consistent growth.

7. The culture of a market-focused corporation is not the same as the culture of a sales-focused organisation. Most are a mix of both, and managers can rarely understand the difference.

8. It is the rare manager who really understands the entire ramifications of their decisions.

9. Many managers who secure career succession within the organisation do so by being adept at ‘playing the culture and the politics.’ This skill is often effectively used to hide the inadequacy and incompetence of those managers.

10. Many managers are un-promotable.

11. Some managers are promoted to make way for new talent beneath them and do not have the necessary skills, knowledge or talent to do their new jobs effectively.

12. Many managers do not have defined and quantified KPOs (Key Performance Outcomes / Objectives).

13. Many managers cannot tell the difference between a KPO (outcome) and a KPI (indicator) and the implications on the business of their ignorance.

14. Every organisation needs both right and left-brain skills, but in differing numbers and different roles within the company subject to the company’s nature, objectives and context. Most managers have either right or left brain characteristics and preferences. Their employers are generally oblivious to the implications of such preferences and characteristics on decision-making, change strategies, communications strategies, managerial performance and career development strategies. Effective managers/leaders can (and must) operate in both hemispheres.

15. Considerable corporate and management effort and funds are fixated on enablers and not outcomes.

16. Some, but very few, directors and managers are outright crooks.

17. Some managers and directors become crooks out of desperation, stress and opportunity.

18. No organisation, and therefore its managers, is perfect but some are efficient and effective and serve their shareholders reasonably well.

19. No corporation, and therefore no manager, acts rationally at all times.

20. Much corporate thinking (by managers) is ill-conceived, poorly performing, or redundant.

21. Many very expensive projects promoted by management are ill-conceived, poorly performing, or redundant.

22. Change is generally misunderstood and under-estimated in many organisations and by most managers and mismanaged in most organisations.

23. Only a few organisations (and some managers) value experience, regardless of the age of those who have the experience.

24. Every organisation incurs unnecessary risk and cost that is born by shareholders without their approval or knowledge, due to lousy management thinking and performance.

25. No listed corporation knows exactly what all its shareholders want at any point in time. This causes corporate direction to be significantly influence by management interpretation that is coloured by managers’ subjectivity.

The implication on organisations of this depressing view of management is for:

A. The introduction of a better selection/recruitment process to better match the person with the needs of the role, and apply merit-based standards to all appointments.

B. Ongoing management training for all managers.

C. Use of external mentors for all managers.

D. Ensure all managers have clear, agreed and achievable KPOs.

E. Use systems, processes and information that helps remove the subjective influences of most decisions.

F. Ensure that managers do not staple projects and initiatives to their ego, and are easily able to ‘kill’ such projects when information or context changes. Managers need to promote initiatives, projects and tasks on the basis of ‘indisputable’ data.

Looking to take action in your business, connect with Thierry Bayle or Jack Jacoby.


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