Management

Management is the task of making trade-offs and juggling contradictions. Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter observed: “The ultimate corporate balancing act: Cut back and grow. Trim down and build. Accomplish more, and do it in new areas, with fewer resources.”

Everyone in a company has a different agenda. The advertising manager sees the company’s salvation as being in more advertising; the sales manager wants more salespeople; the sales promotion manager wants more money for incentives; and the R&D department wants more money for product improvement and new product development.

The problem is that if every department only does its own job well, the company will fail. Departments have individual agendas, not company agendas. The gift of reengineering thinking is to switch the focus away from departments toward managing core processes.

Each core process—product development, customer attraction and retention, order fulfillment—requires teamwork from several departments. Increasingly major company initiatives are launched as interdisciplinary team projects, not department projects.


Management must never relax its vigilance. Business is a race without a finishing line. Andrew Grove, former CEO of Intel, postulated Grove’s Law, “Only the paranoid survive.”

But the Japanese see management’s task more positively and call it kaizen: “Improving everything all the time by everyone.” They would rather improve their business every day than pray for an occasional breakthrough. The company that stops getting better gets worse.

At the same time, improving the efficiency of the current operations is not enough. Defining good management in this way has caused many businesses to fold. Management puts the company at risk by staying indoors and not wandering out.

In viewing the business from inside out rather than from outside in, they miss changes in customers, competitors, and channels. They miss threats and opportunities. John Le Carré observed: “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”

Most companies are managed by committees. Richard Harkness, a journalist, defined a committee as “a group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.” Others say that committees are a fine device when you don’t want to accomplish anything. Peter Drucker observed: “Ninety percent of what we call ‘management’ is making it difficult to get things done.”

Every committee meeting should end in 45 minutes, or at least the attendees should take a vote to continue. Some say that the optimum size of a committee is zero. Former U.S. Senator Harry Chapman gave this advice about being on a committee:
  1. Never arrive on time; this [punctuality] stamps you as a beginner.
  2. Don’t say anything until the meeting is half over; this stamps you as being wise.
  3. Be as vague as possible; this avoids irritating the others.
  4. When in doubt, suggest that a subcommittee be appointed.
  5. Be the first to move for adjournment; this will make you popular; it’s what everyone is waiting for.

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