Poor management can cost you your job. This is something that I’ve been thinking about in light of my own unemployment and, in particular, with respect to the trouble the US automakers are going through. Poor management can cost you your job and being mere grunts, there’s nothing you can do about it. The thing about management, though, is that is where the senior people go. Sometimes it’s not a matter of competence as it is “social promotion” or management becomes a self reinforcing organism in which ill-suited people are made managers to protect the ill-suited people in the upper ranks. Then there’s the matter of entrenchment in which managers are happy within in their little fiefdoms and they will do what it takes to maintain their little kingdoms. In other words, they aren’t going anywhere and, consequently, nobody beneath them is going anywhere either. It kills youth and innovation when this happens — but this is what happens in mature companies when organic growth slows to near zero.
I’ve always like the idea of managers either having to move up or move on from a position within 5-yrs. I say if you don’t get it in 5-yrs, then you won’t get it and you don’t want to. Experience is a double-edge sword. On one side their is wisdom and on the other there is calcification — we will do things the way we’ve always done them because these ways worked in the past. Experience is not accumulated by doing the same thing over and over again until death. We see this within in RPG games: the rewards for killing the same beast over and over again diminish with each time you kill it. Wisdom arises from a variety of experiences. But wisdom is useless without imagination. To be effective, one must be able to apply what one has learned to many different situations. One must see the patterns and recognize the differences and the similarities amongst situations. Then that person must use that accumulated wisdom to imagine solutions and what the outcomes from those solutions may be. I know many foolish, unimaginative, and just plain dull managers with lots of experience doing the same thing. I imagine that these are the same types of managers at the big auto 3 US autos that killed the first electric vehicles, watered down the daring looking Volt to look vaguely Prius-like, who couldn’t see past the next hour to $4/gallon gas, and who constantly ignore the customer in favor of doing what’s familiar, safe, and, ultimately, the bare minimum of what they can get away with.
Personally, I look forward to GM and Chrysler going into bankruptcy because when management gets too corrupt and calcified, often total collapse is the only way to get rid of the entirety of upper and middle management and bring in new blood. No, no, a reorg outside of bankruptcy never solves that issue. I’ve seen and heard about it from friends and family too many times. What happens in a reorg is that the managers themselves pick and choose who stays and goes and, in the end, the self reinforcing organism does just that. They rehire each other and get rid of any talent below them that causes a threat. Essentially you get the same structure with new acronyms — it’s the same same story everywhere, in private companies and the government.
I’ve just had a revelation: Perhaps this economic meltdown is nothing more than a changing of the guards — a transfer of power from the boomers to Gen X. So far it’s not a smooth transition, mainly because some boomers can’t accept that they are old and that it’s time to pass the torch. We saw this in the Presidential Election, although McCain was part of the whatever came before the Boomers — the WWII people, Brokaw’s so called “Greatest Generation.” The younger people feel oppressed and want change while the older people are happy with the present and feel assaulted from below. They feel their experience should count for something. And it does, which is why they need to pass it on through mentoring younger generations. But then I think about those old people who really seem wise and relevent to me — Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Al Gore, and T. Boon Pickins come immediately to mind because they are in the popular media a lot these days. I think these are people who have kept relevant with the times. They never stopped observing and they never stopped imagining a better future. They are, also, still pushing into the future despite their age. These are leaders who can create jobs for us :).
So in wrapping this up, if you are in a organization in which management only thinks of preservation, then start packing your bags, looking for a new job, and saving money for unemployment beause people only preserve that which is already dead. If you are a manager, take an honest look at your mindset and motivation. If you are in preservation mode, think carefully about what you are preserving. You may say you are trying to save all the jobs you can, but the reality you can’t admit to yourself is, “I can’t be a manager if I have no one to manage.” If you find yourself there, then maybe it’s time for you to stop being a manager because you’ve totally lost perspective. You are no longer working for the good of the company, the stareholders, the customers, or the employees. You are now thinking only about yourself. On the other hand, if preservation never crossed your mind and your aim is growth, then you are doing great and we can count on you to grow jobs through the support of new ideas and younger employees.