My eye was caught today by the article Rise of the anti-manager by Leo D’Angelo Fisher. Or, to be truthful, the Dutch version of that, on Infoworld. The main line of reasoning in the article is that currently, managers are not very good, getting worse and that companies should pay more attention to the quality of their managers. The article is of the ‘general and broad’ kind, so I will keep in line and follow the same style.
The writer of the article has made some quite clear observations with figures to back them up and I would be inclined to agree on them. However, there are some things I find lacking in the article. First of all, it does not mention the fact that there are so much more managers nowadays than before. And second, it fails to mention there are so many managers not doing anything productive. Just following procedures, making sure the forms are nicely filled out, etc. Actually, in my experience, a lot of them are just there as a sort of ‘filter’ or ‘web’ in between people getting actual work done and people with real decision making power.
So my conclusion would be a little bit different. Yes, quality of management and managers matters. And I am not in favor of getting rid of all managers completely. We are not Golgafrinchans. (Oh wait, we are. Well, any way, we do not want to repeat ourselves, we’re DRY). I have experienced people with the power to lead. Who were able to envision, to create an environment of targeted creativeness, to make sure fights are quenched early, were able to keep in mind the long term effects of certain decisions when everybody else just ‘wants to get it done before the deadline’. And some of them were actually called manager (of something, of course). However, most of them were ‘invisible’ leaders, not in a managerial position. But most of their colleagues know instinctively who to go to for advice or support.
So my conclusion would be not to focus on the title of ‘manager’ and to only recruit better managers. My conclusion would be to give leaders (who may be managers) the room and possiblities they need to do their magic. And actually, most of them do not need much of it, because they know how to get things done. Maybe some managers should be kept that are really that good, that they do not need to do anything productive themselves. And some to deal with the paperwork coming from, of course, managers at other departments.
However, what will actually, positively and definitely keep your actual leaders from having their positive effect is throwing a lot of clueless managers at them and their collegues. For instance, men and women, fresh from (management) school, where they learned the newest trick to artificially get better short term results out of a bunch of people. And those are probably one the best kinds they come in. It can be a lot worse. At the worst end of the scale: real serial killers. Not of people, but of departments and companies.