Thursday, 1 May 2014

Management is dead

In many circles we persist in referring to people as resources, as assets, or as capital, the other dreadful yet common expression. In my mind such labels suggest that people don’t matter, only the organisations balance sheet matters.

I am all about changing this. I am doing so with great respect for the many people I know who have HR in their career title. I know their label doesn’t signify who they really are or what they do.

I believe that there is a nasty hangover in many organisations from the industrial revolution and particularly the Fredrick Taylor (March 20, 1856 – March 21, 1915) idea that people are replaceable cogs in an organisational machine. I believe that it is incredible that 100 years on some people still think this way. I don’t.

Today (in a number of places) I am naming the great elephant in the room - the obvious truth (at least to me) that is being ignored or going unaddressed in many places with terrible consequences - Management that sees people as replaceable cogs and everything associated with this ideology is dead.


What would happen in your business if management was no longer about people as I clearly believe, and instead was all about tasks and efficiency?

For me modern management is all about efficiency. Modern management is therefore all about systems, processes, procedures. It’s about doing things right. The secret to success is how we do things must be good for people. Efficient management needs effective leadership. One with the other leads to disaster.

About 20 years ago I was asked by a group of CEO’s “In your view how is leadership different to management?” I replied one is about effectiveness, the other about efficiency, one is all about relationships and the other is all about tasks. There was a lot of laughter in the room when one guy asked, “Which one is which?” I took the bait and said “In short leadership is about people and management is about systems.”

A great discussion followed. A few hours later I wrote in my journal:

“Leadership is the art of inspiring people to bring everything remarkable that they are, that one-of-a-kind that each of us is, to everything they do.

Leadership falters and usually badly without management.

Management is the science of making it simple for people to bring everything remarkable that they are to everything they do.”

About 15 years ago I replaced the word science with the word practice.

I stand by my definitions. They have stood by me and my clients.

The great thinker and so-called father of management Peter Drucker nailed it when he said “One does not ‘manage’ people. The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”

So why are so many leaders trying to manage people? Beats me.

When I first created my definitions of leadership and management as stated above, in addition to that group of CEOs, I was also influenced greatly by Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. She said “You manage things; you lead people.”

So why are so many leaders trying to manage people? I only know of one reason.

A lot of people, men in particular, like to plan, organise, and control. These are still management functions. They’re just not relevant to people.

Management in terms of managing people is dead. It should never have been allowed to live. 

To bury the beast called people management we have to let go of feeling the need to command and control.

Former McKinsey Managing Partner Marvin Bower, a 1950's and 60's leader was way ahead of his time. There is a link in my blog post here to his thoughts on letting go of command and control.

I hope you will take Mr. Bower’s words to your heart and those of the other great thinkers I have mentioned.

You may also find insights in this recent post ‘Letting go of control and finding flow’ valuable. 

Management in terms of trying to manage people is a grave mistake. 

Will you declare managing people dead at your place?

If so put managing people where it belongs. Under flowers. Say a prayer if you wish. Then erase the memory of management past.

We can’t change the past. We can learn from it and celebrate the lessons. We can create the future.

Be the difference you want to see in the world.
Ian

One way I can help you to create the future is through membership of Maverick Thinkers Studio. In tomorrow's post there will be a one-time-only special joining offer. Look out for it.
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