The interesting thing about management is how similar it can suck despite situations being completely different. This suggests suggest commonalities between either managers themselves or the way organizations are structured. For instance, if it is simply due to the way organizations are structured, maybe they can be restructured. We can not choose different managers (we got what we got), but it is possible to regulate the incentives in a game theoretic ways to ensure that mangers are not rewarded by interrupting the flow of operations.

In my mind the job of a manager is not to tell the productive people what to do—unless they’re inept. The job of the manager is maintain the environment to ensure the best conditions for productivity. This is similar to how the job of a farmer is not to tell the corn how to grow but to create the best soil conditions for such growth. Some managers seem not to understand this.

Here are some examples …

1) You need to do a simple thing (buy a plane ticket), but the company has decided that an approval form is needed for this. This form must be approved 30 days before buying the ticket and the ticket must be bought 30 days before the travel. You submit the paperwork 90 days before. A few days before the deadline, you haven’t gotten anything back, so you call the approval office to trace it down. It turns out it’s been sitting on Bureaucrat X’s desk for the past two weeks. Also X just went on a 3 week vacation and X is the only person who can approve this particular form.

2) Manager A discovers that it is possible to channel X amount of money to one of his department H, if his organization of departments H, I, and J, which are loosely connected, can be approved as a Type Z organization. There are funds available for Type Z organizations. A thus institutes executive order #652 to have departments I and J pretend to be part of H by having each employee work on some H department projects for a couple of weeks a year.

3) Manager X from Department A has been promoted to Head Honcho of both Departments A and B, which have very different work cultures—something which X hasn’t noticed. While X was in charge of A, X instituted some policies that worked very well for A. A now extends these policies to the Department B.

What are your examples?

Originally posted 2010-11-19 11:09:20.