I’ve had it. I’m done. Here’s ANOTHER %*$@#^! article on how to make managers better at their jobs – this time in the Harvard Business Review.
Management – The Business Version of the Titanic
While we’re writing articles on making mangers better, why don’t we just do research on how to keep the Titanic from sinking (pssst…it already sank). Here’s another idea – how about, instead, we figure out how to do it differently, since modern management is having Titanic-like results?
You want to see a disaster? Check out “managing people.” Right now, this month, Gallup says almost 70% of everyone at work is phoning it in, 51% are actively pursuing another job (resume is on the street), and 86% have yet to find something they love doing. Do a search for “research on why people quit”, and every single one of the answers (including the HBR article) points to the boss as somewhere between 50% and 75% of the reasons someone will leave their job. Please, just visit the above Gallup link and weep over how badly we are “managing” people. In our company, we’ve had one person voluntarily leave us since we started it 11 years ago – read on to find out why.
Rehumanizing the Workplace By Giving Everyone Their Brain Back
What if we did something simple? What if we decided people are adults and can be smart and motivated, and if given the opportunity, a team of people TOGETHER could actually design better jobs, better metrics, better processes, and better division of labor than any one boss/manager/genius/hero ever could? Take a look at companies like The Morning Star Co. (4,000 staff), Semco (3,000), Pivotal labs (2,000+), Barry-Wehmiller (11,000+), W. L. Gore (10,000+, GE Aviation (40,000), Wegmans Grocers (58,000+) – a hundred more big companies, and thousands of smaller ones. All of them have exponentially higher staff happiness and retention than others in their industries, by factors of 5x, 10x or more, and they all have one thing in common – they have pushed local decision making to the people who actually have to live with the decisions. In those companies, managers don’t make decisions, teams do.
Who’s Your Daddy?
In most of those companies, managers don’t even exist because the companies found the teams are better at the manager’s job. Duh. It’s so simple and elegant, and all the data is on the side of self-management, yet we keep trying to put lipstick on a Factory System pig that was born in an Industrial Age that does not serve an emerging work world.
Shortly before Peter Drucker died he said, “We are in one of those great historical periods that occur every 200 to 300 years when people don’t understand the world anymore, and the past is not sufficient to explain the future.” Yet we continue to flog this old worn out idea (top-down management) in the face of opposing data that is simply staggering.
People continue to leave top-down managed companies in droves because managers suck, so what do we do? We ignore Einstein’s warning that the mind that created the problem is not the mind that will solve it, and instead we pound and pound on the managers to get better at being somebody’s daddy. Talk about abuse. Making managers better is a terrible, abusive, and holistically untenable idea.
Teams Make Decisions? Could That Work?
Please, please, in the name of good business, let’s stop trying to make managers better. Let’s just rehumanize the workplace and give everyone their brain back by pushing decision-making to those who have to carry out the decision. Teams should make decisions they have to carry out, not managers who sit in walnut offices and play with excel spreadsheets.
Decision-making gives a person their brain back, that drives engagement, and people don’t leave.
We worked that way in all eleven of my companies on four continents, and now we help other companies get there. These companies are all exponentially better off without managers in every way – growth, profit, productivity, and retention. And they aren’t constantly rehashing why people quit, or why managers suck so bad. Because in those companies, there are no managers and people don’t quit.
Don’t Make Managers Better, Eliminate Management
Managers don’t suck. It’s the very idea of “manager” that sucks so bad, and trying to make managers into superhuman co-dependent enablers of people “above” and “below” them is an idea we should just stop flogging. (Click here and here to find out how to create leadership without management, and with exponentially fewer leaders to boot.)
Let’s stop treating the people “below” (below? seriously?) managers like they are children in need of an office day care center and a babysitter. Take a look at the companies in this article that have all freed themselves of the management tax, as my friend Doug Kirkpatrick labels it, and be envious. Then go do it.
Who’s with me? No more articles on how to make managers better! Make PEOPLE better – give them their brain back!