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Category: Business & Communities

Can we manage without managers?

Quotations from Gary Hamel’s The Future of Management.

“My guess is that the most bruising skirmishes in the new millennium won’t be fought
along the battle lines that separate one competitor, ecosystem or economic bloc from
another. Rather, they will be fought along the lines that separate those who seek to
defend the prerogatives, power and prestige of their bureaucratic caste from those who
hope to build less structured, less tightly managed organizations that elicit and merit
the very best that human beings have to give.”

“Not surprisingly, most managers believe you can’t manage without managers. This is
the mother of all management orthodoxies”

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Priorities and goals

Middle management sucks

I’ve always thought that one of the best kept secrets of management theory is that middle management sucks.  Have you every noticed that there are very few movies about middle management? And whenever there is a story about middle management, it is about a submarine or boat where the “business unit manager” is far enough away from the “strategic leaders” to do some leadership? Or we see the middle manager bailing out and rediscovering life as in Jerry Maguire.

Middle management sucks because it is all urgent and important

Middle management sucks because it is all management.  It is all about “to do” lists.  Being a housewife is similar.  “To do lists” take up too much of our attention.  It is a percentage thing.  While everything on the the list is important, we should never allow our lives to be overtaken by what is urgent and important.  Urgent and important should be allowed, how much do you think?  1%?  If you have a day of urgent and important tasks, don’t you think you really have another 99 days of tasks that you are not doing?

Can you live without a day of urgent and important tasks?

If we could live without urgent and important tasks, I wonder whether we would?

Isn’t it true, as David Whyte says, that we make another “to do list” because we are scared that we are nothing and nobody without one.

It becomes very interesting when our “to do” lists vanish.  If we are suddenly ill,  or when we change jobs and nobody knows who we are.  When we don’t get email and our phone doesn’t ring.  It is quite disconcerting.  We much prefer to be dominated by urgent and important tasks even if they are dreary. Don’t we prefer to have “to do” lists that are larger than ourselves and our dreams?

To do lists make us miserable

For the last 10 years, as a displaced person/migrant, I’ve oscillated between frenetic completion of lists of commercial tasks like residence permits, bank accounts, etc. etc. – things I hate to do at the best of times – and silence.  I think this is why migration is so miserable.  Not dealing with bankers and government officials – they are people too.  Not taking boring jobs.  The jobs are important in their own right.  Migration is miserable because we make the mistake of allowing the “to do list” and the silences that surround them be all that it is.

We have to allow the “to do” work and accompanying silences fit into space around our dreams, not be our only space.

We really have to resolve to re-engineer our lives around a dream, to live around what we love to do and to relax into doing what others love us to do because we do it so well.  We have to allow the “to do” work and silences fit in to that space, not be our only space. We are letting priorities become goals and constrict our spaces until we cannot breathe anymore – rather literally for some.

A hack to start the dreaming

Take a a piece of paper (or junk mail envelope).  Draw a little circle for our little life as a migrant, or as a housewife, or as a middle manager (those scare me more than being a migrant).  Around that little circle, draw a giant circle representing our horizons and dreams.  And stare at the empty space between the two.  Pretty scary.

I feel my chest constrict.  I want to walk away.  I mustn’t.   I must start defining the points on the horizon.  The points I love and I am drawn to.  And then start filling in any points between me and there, any point at all, useful or not.   I need to take the first step and to put down the first point.

Can we leave the tight center of tedium?

It is hard when immediate pressures are upon us.  We won’t start dreaming instantly.  We keep looking nervously at that tight center of tedium. How can we take our eye off all these pressures?

Crisscross over.  Promise yourself you will be back to watch that tight center like you watch a pot on the stove or a sick child.  But branch out in each direction to see how far you can see.  It is only a piece of paper after all. Just add a point.  See if you can.

See if you dare to live a full life even on the back of an envelope

See if you dare lie a life when priorities take up 1% of your existence and are priorities, not limits and constraints.

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Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford

If you have never read Steve Jobs’ commencement address, here is a link.  This is Steve Job’s story from dropping out to college to surviving his first life threatening illness.  Read his philosophy of life.

I’ve not read the original before.  Here it is.

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Employees care!

I would be more productive if I had a different boss?

Response

Percentage

No

15.91 %

Yes

40.91 %

Don’t Know

9.09 %

Sometimes I feel that way

27.27 %

Do not Care

2.27 %

N/A

4.55 %

Interesting data from Zimbabwe. Only 1 out of 50 do not care whether or not they would be more productive with another boss.

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How important is this employee to your business and how good is your follow-through?

There is a program about restaurants and casinos on Radio 4 at the minute.  It seems chefs in casinos are given every resource and facility to provide better food and service than their competitors.

I wonder how many industries could make the same claim?

 

May 2017:  How many businesses seriously consult their in-house experts about what they can do to advance the collective goal?  How many businesses are running a strategic-game at all?

To rephrase this in terms of contemporary work & organizational psychology research, how many jobs are the most pressing concerns felt by employees to be their specific contribution to the strategic effort?

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Watch list: effectuation

The logic of entrepreneurship.  Is this a term to watch?

UPDATE 2011 (four years since my first post):  Effectuation has become a bigger deal.  It’s even in Wikipedia now.

UPDATE:  Work seems to be going on at this website. They even have a unconference of sorts in December 2009. [which website?]

The papers on this site explain well the tough concept of “Ready Fire Aim”.  From these papers, its possible to translate the concepts of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship into business practice.

It is also possible to argue logically for a strategic approach based on the level of predictability in the environment.

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Elixir for the work psychologist!

Nic Brisbourne of Esprit Capital Partners blogging as Equity Kicker reported the raising of capital to buy a football club.  Bravo!  I will be watching closely!

UPDATE: This collaborative venture in football ownership seems to be going well!

UPDATE: 03 July 2010.  With Clay Shirky’s book on Cognitive Surplus about to come out, and the British governments experiments in crowd-sourcing, we will see renewed interest in people-driven ventures mediated online.

The big question is whether business has the imagination to go this route or whether they will remain locked in to models of secrecy.

UPDATE: 14 February 2017.  Did this go anywhere?

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