In 1979 Dr. Ichak Adizes lamented that the management of corporations was failing abysmally (2). With twenty-five years to improve since that book’s publication, have things gotten better? ‘No,’ according to Henry Mintzberg, an MBA professor at McGill University – who some opine as a modern-day Peter Drucker – ‘things have gotten worse’ (1). Mintzberg makes that claim that our entire society is negatively and seriously affected by this decline. CCCC’s own experience seems to echo the views of these business management gurus. Let’s take a look.
- Dr. Adizes’ Initial Question
The very first words of Dr. Azizes’ 1979 book (2) ask: “Have you ever known executives who graduated from leading schools of management but as managers you felt they were mismanaging? They shot from the hip or procrastinated in making decisions or were bureaucratic in the sense of going-by-the-book? They knew their management theory; they knew they had to plan and organize and motivate and control but somehow, on one or more of these functions, they failed?” The question bears repeating today. How would you respond?
- Dr. Mintzberg’s Initial Postulate
The preface of Dr. Mintzberg’s book (1) includes the comment: “My critique of the MBA (is that it) is business education that I believe distorts managerial practice (and extends to) the practice of management itself, which I believe is off the rails, with dysfunctional consequences in society.”
- What is Management?
Dr. Mintzberg describes management as a practice that has to blend a good deal of craft (experience) with a certain amount of art (insight) and some science (analysis).
CCCC agrees with that description and more specifically expands upon this meaning of management in section 7 below.
- What’s Wrong?
Dr. Mintzberg’s position about what has gone wrong stems from four considerations.
The first is that MBA schools, especially in North America, have a single focus on analysis (science) while ignoring craft (experience) and insight (art).
He puts it bluntly “MBA graduates who believe they can manage anything are quite simply a menace to society.”
The second is that this situation is exacerbated by the fact that an MBA as a management training method has gained a dominance in the market place (just as the four-cycle engine has gained dominance for automobiles in our society). Logical or illogical, most leading companies recruit MBA’s for their new and growing management positions. This is where the action is. Good or bad, people know that having an MBA is a fast-track to management. And companies feel, the fast-track to good results is having a fleet of young MBA’s. Unfortunately, as Mintzberg shows with chapters and tables involving famous people, famous universities and famous companies, the actual results of these MBA-educated people are dismal and dismaying.
The root of the problem is explained as that MBA courses focus on analysis of hypothetical situations, dismissing or ignoring the experience and arts factors. Nobody has to actually implement and see the results from these analyses. There is no mess of reality for anyone to clean up. Thus graduates, who have managed nothing during school, are now asked to manage huge empires and challenges. Worse, they actually think they can manage them. Manage them they do, analyzing, recommending but rarely hanging around to see the results because they have moved onto the next great challenge.
Thirdly, according to Mintzberg, the young MBA’s are trained to get results quickly at school because getting the analysis in on time to your professor is more important than the accuracy of the analysis.
A fourth problem is that the whole situation attracts people who seek a fast track to prestige and money as a prime motivator. Whereas, as is illustrated in the section immediately following, and as 20 years of empirical research by Buckingham and Coffman shows (5), the best managers are those who set their goal to derive improvement in others. And by this means they lead to the best corporate results as well as the benefits of improved job satisfaction.
- The Measure of Management Success
CCCC likes to start the description of management with the measure of successful management (3). In our opinion, the measure of successful management is the number of directly-reporting staff members that the manager holds in awe. The higher the number (or percentage), the more successful the management has been. Conversely, if the manager’s staff is ‘nothing but a bunch of idiots’ perhaps that manager should take a good look inside.
A perverse measure of management is staff turnover. The higher the staff turnover, the poorer the manager has been.
A good manager will create a satisfying work environment for employees. Most people leave jobs because of a poor relationship with their immediate superior. Thus, the key determinant of job satisfaction is the relationship the employee has with the boss (7). A simple enough statement, but it really encompasses all the things that make work a stimulating and personally rewarding challenge – that drives an individual’s intrinsic motivator, i.e. personal self-esteem. High turnover indicates poor relationships with the boss, poor motivation, poor job satisfaction and hence, poor management.
- Getting Improved Results
Management is all about getting increased results, outcomes or performance through people. So, if you are in awe of your own employees does that mean better results? It usually does.
Last night, on TV, I watched the Montreal Alouettes roll, with ease, onto their 8th victory in 9 games over the #2 contender in the league. The announcers were in awe of the various players and in interviews with coach Matthews, he gushed with pride and admiration for specific players under him. In one breath, he claimed it was not his victory but that of the players – they were doing it, not him. I think this attests to the ‘measure’ of good management. By the way, Don Matthews has the best winning record in the 100 plus-year history of the CFL. He happens to have access to the same player base – colleges and universities and other football leagues as do all the other coaches in Canada.
The point is, once you are in awe of your own personnel, you will see yourself enjoying excellent results – just as in the football example above.
Imagine yourself as the coach of a high jumper, encouraging her to improve her technique, to dedicate herself, to show self-discipline and to raise the bar. The odds are, despite your own expertise as a high jumper in years gone by, your protégé will be exceeding what you would have done way back then – that you would be in awe of her present accomplishments.
I have my own list of amazing employees who reported to me. I hope you have such a list too. Take a moment to reflect on these good employees.
- The Mechanics of Management
It’s one thing to identify the measure of good management (section 5) – how many pucks go in the net – but how do you do what is needed to slide those pucks into the net – to get these sorts of results?
Those of you who follow the CCCC practices will be familiar with the PAVF management styles. And you will be aware of the position of CCCC that successful management evolves only from a balance of PAVF.
P (Producer) is drive, the desire to get things done and the anxiety to make sure they happen.
A (Analyzer) is not only analysis, but the attention to detail to make sure things are done accurately and thoroughly.
V (Visionary) is seeing ahead, the big picture and the impact in the future of what you are doing today will bring. It is creativity and the flexibility to respond to change.
F (Friend) is empathy – a focus on the people who will bring it all together, that is, teamwork and cooperation.
In other words:
P = what (the issue at hand)
A = how (details of it)
V = why and when (change and future)
F = who (people)
The balance is required because the lack of any one of these will mean the absence of a key factor. For example, the absence of P will mean that the job probably will not get done. The absence of A will mean that the project will be skimpy on details. The absence of V will mean the absence of enquiry or the ability to respond to change. Finally, the absence of F will usually spell a lack of cooperation or proper allocation of human resources.
Now let’s apply PAVF to Dr. Mintzberg’s description of managing above:
Science (analysis) is determined by A. But A importantly also brings in the dimension of accuracy and rigorousness – something that seems to be lacking in MBA training as described by Mintzberg.
Art (insight) is covered by V, the creative, innovative and questioning aspect of PAVF. One component of V is a desire for personal recognition, so some V would make up part of the Mintzberg MBA schooling formula.
Experience (craft) is about developing skills through the give and take exchanges with other people in a real-life environment; it is the learning from mistakes. From a PAVF perspective, this would include all of PAVF, with an emphasis on P (doing things), A (ensuring the details are right) and F (exchanges with other people).
On the other hand, using Mintzberg’s description of a typical MBA program, the net would be:
P the action to do things
½ A the analysis portion only
½ V the recognition portion only
0 F nil interaction with associates
If we integrate the three Mintzberg qualifiers into the PAVF descriptors we have:
Experience P A V F
That is, one way or the other all of PAVF are cared for and considered in this management model.
However, in the former (MBA = PAV) a short fall in A (lack of detail portion of A) will result in doing things incorrectly, leaving chaos for others to clean up. Partial V will result in A dominating V and the resulting growth of bureaucracy described in other works (6) by W. Caswell (and confirmed by Mintzberg). The lack of F will result in not listening to the real world people out there so the likelihood of the good implementation of the wrong thing, the proverbial stepping on toes and the resulting noses out of joint. In other words – a management mess!
Well, Mintzberg’s got it. Gallup Consulting has got it (5). Perhaps a change for the better is happening in some quarters. But the net result from the CCCC perspective is that management practices are more out of control today than ever before. In any event, Dr. Mintzberg’s book (1), which triggered this paper, is a superb (if not sometimes frightening) read. It is highly recommended.