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July 26, 2006

The management myths.....

Following on from yesterdays post, I felt I had to say a bit more about the myths of management, this time a little closer to my own situation. I am currently working to a management made up entirely of people who call themselves "professional managers" yet none of them have any experience or knowledge (beyond what they have learned listening to the rest of us "professionals" that they "enable" by "taking the management functions off us"), of what we do or how it has to be done. Yet these are now the people who tell me that their efforts make my life easier because they "take all the management tasks off me."

Well, the most noticeable thing about that is the fact that I now spend two thirds of my time writing ridiculously complex reports for them to explain what would be blindingly obvious to anyone who is a professional in my particular profession. They don't make my task easier, because they have increased my workload some 250%. Need to replace a piece of equipment - do a business case explaining why it would not be cheaper to (a) repair what you have, (b) actually need the item and (c) why it could not be replaced with something cheaper. Then, assuming you finally get the wording exactly as the "manager" wants it - he or she presents it to a board of equally ignorant people who then discuss only one part of it - the price tag. The really irritating part of this is that, until recently we had a management team of real professionals - professionals who managed the organisation - and I could put the same request to them without having to explain much beyond that it was (a) essential we replace it and (b) how I proposed to do so. An answer would be forthcoming and we would get on with the process. Not any more - now we have "professional managers" who are unable to make a decision and when they accidentally do make one and it turns sour on them - they expect the "professionals" who are not competent to manage in their eyes - to fix it.

It is very interesting when you take account of the fact that, of my colleagues, some fifteen of us have been senior and very senior managers in our chosen profession and most of us have a number of diplomas in management and several, myself included, have Masters Degrees in it - and I'm not talking the dreaded MBA here. Yet, among our new "Professional Managers" there are only three with Bachelors degrees, the most senior have none, one has a dreaded NVQ (stands for Not Very Qualified) and two have "Diplomas" from the Institute of Management. One of my colleagues who held a very senior position in a similar organisation until he retired has the following: Bachelor of Science, Master of Arts, four Diplomas in various technical matters related to our profession and around twenty years of real management experience - yet he is no longer considered "competent" to manage - an assessment made by our present underqualified and incompetent "professional managers".

When "managers" parachute into an organisation, it is not unusual to find that within days they take one of two initiatives. If the new manager is from a similar professional background - ie: is a professional in the field they are now to manage - they may begin to institute changes to bring the organisation they have joined round to the way things were in the organisation they have left. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does need to be done sensitively and with due consideration given to the fact that there may be very good reason why it will not work the same way. The second, and more disasterous situation is the one where the new "manager" is a so-called "professional manager" and knows nothing at all of the organisations function and purpose. They parachute in at whatever level and immediately initiate a "re-structure" of the department, or "re-organisation" of the whole organisation if they are high enough up the tree. The purpose is self defence - basically they feel insecure and threatened by the professionals they are now required to manage and whose function, expertise and actual knowledge is knownm only by the fact that a job description may exist somewhere - and the easiest way to ensure you are not undermined or threatened by these nasty types who actually know what they are doing and how to do it - is to make them insecure and destablised. So you change all their jobs around and create new layers above them. It is disasterous precisely because it destablises the entire organisation and that ultimately leads to its becoming unfocused and losing its direction. Everyone heads off defending their own little patch on their own and the organisation unravels very rapidly. Each subsequent "re-organisation" simply increases the instability. Interestingly it has also been credibly identified in a number of detailed studies of business failure, as the single most important factor leading to that failure.

Discussing this state of affairs with a friend in the NHS, she observed that this was what had gone wrong in the Health Service. The medical professionals had been eased out of the management positions and replaced by "professional managers" who managed everything on one measurement only. "How much will it cost if we don't." If not doing an operation will mean getting sued they will find the money - although sometimes they prefer to be sued as this allows them to run back to Whitehall and squeal for more money to waste on lawyers when they could have got the job done right the first time - by allowing the real professionals to manage the operation themselves.

Administration is not a profession, they are little more than glorified filing clerks and should be paid commensurately. Far too many are now earning the salaries that used to be paid to the real professionals who managed, but don't take the responsibility when their decisions go wrong or kill someone. That is the real reason for all the form filling and "business case" preparation they demand - it provides them with a trail to someone they can blame for their own incompetence by saying "but we asked the professionals".

Nice work if you can get it I suppose - after all, you never have to bear the consequences of your decisions - assuming you made any.

Posted by The Gray Monk at July 26, 2006 08:30 PM

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