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Management and monarchy July 9, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Work.

Thomas Paine wrote,

There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in the cases where the highest judgment is required.

I argue that most managers see themselves as monarchs of their own small kingdoms in the midst of the company and as a result, I think Paine’s words resonate equally well by swapping ‘monarchy’ for ‘management’.

I have worked for around 10 total managers during my career – some intelligent and effective, some blissfully incompetent.  One thing that nearly all of them have had in common, though, is that they typically spend their time doing “manager things” and thus excluding themselves from the means of information.  Yet they are all empowered to act where the highest judgment is required.

I think it would not be unfair to say that most of the managers I’ve worked for try to compensate for their self-imposed exclusion from the means of information in the final moments before their judgment is required.  Most of them have not taken the time to internalize even the important details of a problem, let alone the background, causes, effects, and consequences of that problem.  Their decision process nearly invariably results in operational and opportunity costs to the buisness.

I question whether my own employees have felt this way about me.  I don’t know.

I believe in laissez-faire management – communicate the desired outcome to an employee and the limits placed on him to achieve that outcome.  Measure the employee by his ability to achieve the desired outcome.  Be available for coaching, collaboration, or assistance as needed and as requested by the employee.  Take responsibility on your own to know intimately the details you need in order to make judgments that are required of you.

This approach results in lower operational costs (think ‘fewer status reports’), happier employees, and higher business efficacy.



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