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Post details: Miss Management

Miss Management

Judging by the moniker for the physical unit of power, horses must be pretty mighty creatures. Your fancy new sports car would certainly lose much of its luster if the stated output of its engine was denominated in platypuspower, wouldn't it? People have been trying to harness that natural motor ever since they realized they are the Masters of the Universe and as such can relegate much of toil and drudgery to lower creatures. Horses remained a valuable source of cheap and highly portable energy throughout history, even after man figured out how to set fire to liquefied dinosaur droppings in robust metallic cylinders.

The other day I saw a cool contraption. It looked just like your regular treadmill, except it could generate electricity while you exercised. Very cool, and very green. Now imagine some bright bulb would try to use that contraption to extract work from a draft horse. You'd push the unsuspecting farm animal onto the narrow rubber conveyor, tie its reins at the console and stick an extra bale of hay behind the handle bar. But turning the machine on would reveal a fatal flaw in its design. It was not horse friendly. The stumbling beast would undoubtedly display such awkward lack of fine muscular coordination that even the most optimistic entrepreneurs would have to admit that this was not the right way to extract power from a horse.

Every person (or a horse) has a natural modus operandi. Achieving the best outcome is possible only if you can fit that unique mode seamlessly into the overall operation of a larger unit. Some people like their work space messy and chaotic, some like it clean and orderly. Some people like to work in short spates of intense activity punctuated by breaks, some prefer more continuous and concentrated effort. Micromanaging employees and forcing them into unnatural modes of operation can have shockingly devastating effect on the overall productivity.

People sometimes think that managing does not require any special aptitude. Certainly a young lady standing in line behind me at Panera Bread yesterday thought so. Endowed with an advanced sense of humor and a slight trace of slight in her voice, she gigglily opined to her friend that the only subject managers must be good at is "bossing people around all day long". But I think she was sadly mistaken. Good managers are few and far between, because - contrary to popular belief - what they do involves the rare skill of finding the "right" way how to maximize the collective output of their managees.

Managing is kind like playing Tetris. You have to combine individuals possessing different skills and personalities to flawlessly process the impending work flow. You have to fit them together so there are as few "holes" in the production structure as possible. You have to tease the best qualities out of them, you have to make sure they interface smoothly with each other, you have to unleash their hidden potential and you have to regroup when situation warrants it. And all that jazz has to take place in real time.

Sadly, many managers don't get it and saddle their subordinates with seemingly logical but practically dysfunctional procedures, many a time insisting on using high-tech gadgets which not only do not contribute to the success of task at hand, but often stand in the way of optimal performance. Since I started with an animal analogy, let me also finish with one.

Imagine an "overzealous" manager presented with a task of guarding a house. They would probably hire a pesky German shepherd and outfit it with all sorts of modern protective contraptions, high tech weaponry, assorted bells and whistles and autoloading ammunition belts. Sure, their intentions might have been good, but had the thief actually entered, the poor dog would have tripped all over itself and had it been particularly ferocious, it might have even shot itself in the paw with a poorly designed trigger. All that technology - so useful in other cases - would have gone to a complete waste. Once in a blue moon, a good old fashioned "woof-woof" does the job just fine.

A case study in mismanagement.


Comment from: Audrey [Visitor]
Your exactly right. One of the hardest jobs of being a boss is getting people to work. They always seem to put the wrong people in charge and with a little power its my way or the highway.
Permalink 09/04/10 @ 12:18

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