Mintzberg’s Magic Wand
I asked Professor Henry Mintzberg, author of 140 articles and 13 books, “If you waved a magic wand over businesses, what would you change?”
He said, “I’d get rid of all MBA’s.”
He explained, “We’d lose some good people but in the whole it would be a positive move.” Mintzberg’s quiet voice disarms but he never minces words. Never mistake quiet for weak.
Mintzberg believes management has gone completely off the rails. Things that trouble Mintzberg about MBA’s include:
- They graduate with distorted pictures of management. They believe management is about management principles, for example.
- They believe they can manage anything regardless of the business.
- They have knowledge without experience which leads to hubris.
“If management isn’t about management principles, what’s it about?” I asked.
“Management is connecting.” Henry Mintzberg
Although he didn’t use the terms human or humane, they seem to explain his passion. He despises an emphasis on productivity that’s built on the backs of over-worked, burned-out employees. He believes pushing people only works in the short-term.
He also believes cutbacks and layoffs are equivalent to the failed practice of bloodletting. They produce short-term profits and long-term loses. Mintzberg loves saying, “If you want productivity, fire everyone and sell from inventory.”
Mintzberg believes organizations should be built for long-term success rather than quick profits. Shifting to the long view may be the most radical change businesses can make because it requires connecting.
Recent article by Mintzberg and Todd: The Offline Executive
A new approach to leadership development: Coaching Ourselves
If you could wave a magic wand over businesses, how would they change?
How are you navigating short-term vs. long-term views of business, management, and leadership?
Long term thinking seems to be a difficult concept to master, not only in business, but in life. Now never lasts very long. Making decisions based on now, or perhaps a few minutes from now, very often results in short term gain for long term pain.
Thanks Laurie… “Now never lasts very long.” KaChing!
I have different perception about all MBA’s, we should focus on Productive and Non Productive MBA’s, every people is learning every day whether he is a CEO or Management Trainee, No body is borne with any degree or certificate, it’s all about learning.
How do we identify which MBAs will be productive or non-productive prior to the job offer?
Mintzberg’s magic wand won’t change anything until managers learn how to effectively manage employees and how to hire successful employees. Managing successful employees is so much easier than managing unsuccessful employees. Even MBAs cannot escape the need to be competent, fit the culture, and fit their job.
Thanks so much for this interview! Henry Mintzberg is a brilliant thinker and I wish more organizations would understand and apply his ideas.
I think most of the problems we are see are due to short-term, usually negative, thinking. I once took a nonprofit leadership position where I was urged to wind down programs and staff because of insecure revenues and little in the bank. Instead, I ramped up programs, used summer students and interns to supplement a minimal staff, and attracted new revenue sources. Two years later, we had to move to bigger office space. Had I wound down instead, I believe the organization would have ceased to exist.
I’m with you Jane.. hunker-down thinking pulls us down. I can see the need to pull back in some situations but generally, pulling back is a slow death! Speedy death is less painful, go for it.
All managers are not effective managers.
I have Mintzberg’s Strategy Book sitting next to me. Great article, he is a brilliant management thinker.
It was a privilege to talk with him. Thanks for the encouragement.
Hello Dan, I agree with Professor Mintzberg that companies often succeed in spite of their managers but that does not indict the way managers are educated. What should be indicted is the way employers screen job applicants for all their positions, especially for their managerial positions.
As far as I know MBA programs give little attention to how to hire successful employees let alone how to identify future successful managers with and without MBAs. Perhaps programs in Human Resource Management stress employee selection but their graduates inevitably report to MBAs and other business school graduates and worse, managers with technical degrees. Couple this with risk avoiding HR professionals and we can begin to grasp the cause of the MBA as manager problem.
HR Professionals, like most employees, quickly learn to avoid mistakes if mistakes are punished. What is safer than hiring the most qualified people we can find such as those who have advanced degrees, i.e., MBAs, MSs, and Ph.D.s? The most/best qualified are always a safe hire. Business believes that qualifications predict job success. Therefore, more qualifications must predict more job success. ugh.
How many times have we heard managers say that they “hire the best and the brightest”? We know, because our clients tell us, that top performers were seldom the best or the brightest job applicants. How can that be? Answer, hiring managers don’t know how to differentiate between two types of qualified to be hired job applicants; Type 1 – those who will become successful employees and Type 2 – those who will not become successful employees. Our clients tell us the Type 2 group is about 80% of the qualified to be hired group. In other words, hiring manages do not hire the best person for the job about 80% of the time. Yes, they hire qualified applicants and all too often the most qualified but not the right people. Now lets add the above insight to that offered by Jim Collins, Dr. Peter, and Dr. Thornberry.
Employers always benefit when their employees know more about business and management. It was my realization that I was poorly prepared to manage people or a business that prompted me to complete an Executive MBA program, Class of 1992, after working with engineers since 1966. Undergraduate and graduate schools in engineering did not prepare me to effectively manage a business, projects or people. This was a most distressing realization for me.
Engineers who are self-taught in both business and management are poorly taught in both. I think it was Deming who expressed the notion that the self-taught rarely learn the best way to do something. In other words, engineers need to learn about business and management from people who know a lot more than they do and also how to teach both effectively.
The earliest recollection I have of the insight Jim Collins offers in his book “Good to Great” is from the 1968 book “The Peter Principle” def. “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”. That is the first time I remember reading how people can be assigned to a job in which failure is predictable. I’ll agree that it isn’t 100% predictable but it is a lot closer to 100% than it is to a flip of the coin.
The second source is from a compilation of 24 articles from the Harvard Business Review. One article in particular comes to mind. The authors wanted to know why managers were successful. The authors found that some managers were successful when they focused on the big picture and some were successful when they focused on the details. The authors were about to give up their study when they decided to look at why managers failed. Their conclusion was that managers who changed their behaviors depending on the demands of the task failed less frequently. Managers who were effective at the big picture tasks failed when the task required an attention to detail. Managers who were detail oriented failed when the task required a big picture approach. We know that managers range from big picture people to detail oriented people but the most successful managers change their behavior to meet the demands of the task. Jim Collins might say, don’t put all big picture people on the bus if you need someone to read the road map.
The third source is from the 1989 book “The Managerial Mystique, restoring leadership in business” by Dr. Abraham Zaleznik. In “The Managerial Mystique” Dr. Zaleznik addresses why managers do what they do and he describes and illustrates the differences between managers and leaders. If a company wants leaders they need to hire leaders. If they want managers they need to hire managers. Unfortunately for almost all employers Jim Collins is correct, they need to hire the right people. Managers seldom know how to hire the right people and this helps explain why so many managers complain so much about employees not being motivated and/or low productivity. This also explains why so many executives complain about their direct reports’ failures as managers. Jim Collins might say that we need at least one leader and many more managers on our corporate bus.
The fourth source I remember for Collins’ insight is the article is the 1989 article “Transforming the Engineer into a Manager: Avoiding the Peter Principle” Civil Engineering Practice, Fall 1989. The author, Dr. Neil Thornberry a Professor at Babson College, asserts that young engineers are judged on technical merit and accomplishment, and that promotions go to the technically proficient and verbally expressive engineers, while less technically proficient and verbally expressive engineers wait their turn.
Dr. Thornberry found that for a group of engineers the most talkative, competent engineer gets the first promotion into management. The second most talkative, competent engineer gets the second promotion into management. However, the third most talkative, competent engineer makes the best manager. Now lets presume that a growing company keeps promoting their most talkative competent engineers into management. What do we have? The best technical experts no longer doing the work and the best managers not in management and if they are in management they report to someone who is less capable of managing effectively.
Among the top job finalists the person with the best fit is seldom ranked number 1. Our clients tell us that looking back they realize that they were not offering the job to the best person about 4 out of 5 times. In other words, they failed to hire the best person 80% of the time.
The fifth source for Collins’ insight is the 1999 book “First, Break All The Rules, what the world’s greatest managers do differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman of the Gallup Organization. The authors’ recommendations are based on Gallup’s interviews of over 80,000 managers in over 400 companies across numerous industries — the largest study of its kind ever undertaken. This book helps explain why talent, we call it job fit, is so important when selecting employees. The authors’ define a “talent”, (page 71) as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied…The emphasis here is on the word ‘recurring.’ Great managers say ‘Your talents are the behaviors you find yourself doing often.'”
The sixth source is our 30,000+ clients who hire for talent or as Jim Collins would say “getting the right people on the bus.”
A design build firm that replaced 33% of their project managers a year began hiring for talent, i.e., getting the right people on the bus. After a year and half their turnover rate when to zero. As he told me “all our new hires exceed our expectations.”
Employers should know who to put on their bus.
The HR Manager for a software development company hired for talent for over two years and then stopped for two years because the two owners thought they could do a better job of selecting good Technical Support Analysts (TSA) than Sonja, their HR Manager. (TSAs go to the customers’ workplace and identify the programming errors and then reprogram the software.)
The owners felt too restricted by the talent selection process. After two years of doing it themselves they went to Sonja’s office and told her “We suck at this, start using the your talent method again, you are much more successful at hiring good TSAs than we are.” The owners could not duplicate her success rate, not bad for just an HR Manager. Sonja took a risk when she first tried the talent selection process.
Employers over rely on interviews and qualifications. The goal should be to hire competent people, not necessarily the most competent, who will become successful employees. The best I can tell a resume never actually does any work. Just a few thoughts before breakfast this morning.
Mintzberg shared some interesting ideas on hiring and compensation packages. Maybe I’ll share them tomorrow.
PS I think you get the award for longest comment. 🙂 thank you
Lost me at third source, but I am a labrador…look, squirrel!
But I will retrieve my attention and dig through it for some tasty morsels.
I think Mr. Mintzberg is making the mistake of ‘too’. The only (well not only but you get my drift) bad is too. Too much of something, or too little. The world is suffering from a continuous pendulum swing from one position to the polar opposite,
Leadership is the same. Get rid of all MBA’s is a response to the short term, profit and shareholders-are-everything view that was preached by Business Schools for so long.
Things change though: I am a recent graduate, and yet I believe in everything Mr Mintzberg professes – I belief in the long view, in working towards the true customer need, and doing it with passion….excellence and success should not be measured by cash or asset but by personal happiness and customer delight.
A company should be a stepping-stone for employees to reach their life aspirations, turnover of staff should be celebrated.
These are elements of the new MBA that focuses on leadership not management, on ethics, EQ and Effectiveness not profit, shareholders and productivity.
Everything changes, so does the MBA. Yes – there are still those who focus on short term profit. But to follow Mr. Mintzberg’s logic, we should kill off the entire human race due to the actions of evil men.
Remove the MBA? The void will be replaced….with what?
Change the MBA, and create the leaders we need.
As for experience. What did experience bring to Bob Diamond? Experience is fraught with historical dogma and old economy world views. Mr Mintzberg’s argument for the removal of MBA can be used almost unchanged for the removal of experience…. Sometimes the lack of memory is what is needed to revolutionise an economy that is teetering on collapse, riddled with self-doubt.
The error of the ‘too’. We need the old AND the new. We need profit AND passion.
It’s not one or the other, its about bringing together the best of everything.
Note: Just to be clear – I think Mr Mintzberg is a genius.
Love your contribution. The last line says a lot about you. Thank you.
Thank you Dan. Two things – just noticed that I was Mr-ing all over the place, when it should be Prof. Mintzberg. Apologies if I caused any offence.
Secondly, would also love to hear about his views on hiring and remuneration. Please tweet when/if you post this!
We talked about hiring and remuneration… stay tuned. Quiet but deadly.
Gideon, well said.
When I wanted to be a civil engineer I went to college to earn a BSCE. Then, I went to graduate school to become an environmental engineer. After graduate school I returned to the same office and I was quite surprised by what my coworkers did not know about environmental engineering even though they had many more years of experience than I did. I took me a while to realize that they had not acquired the knowledge of a master’s program while doing the work of a graduate engineer.
Years later I earned an MBA to learn how to be an effective manager and business leader. During the Executive MBA program I learned that my bosses, the board of directors, did not know what I knew. It seems that experience is not a substitute for knowledge and knowledge is not a substitute for experience, managers need both.
In other words, before we appoint a manager we should make sure the soon to be manager is already schooled in management theory and practice and is well-suited to the job of managing others, i.e., will enjoy managing others rather than doing the work herself.
Hi Robert, Thanks for bringing your perspective here. Valid points all. I won’t defend Mintzberg, he doesn’t need my help. 🙂
Here’s an interview on HBR where he talks about management education and MBA’s http://blogs.hbr.org/ideacast/2009/03/rethinking-the-mba.html
Hi Dan, thanks for the link to the article. As a graduate of an Executive MBA I won’t disagree with Dr. Mintzberg about the value of studying management after we get experience. However, too many managers never get the education to enhance their experience, they are too busy working.
There are truths in Mintzberg’s way of thinking. But just as important is the power of youth and unfettered thinking. Maybe we don’t need new MBA’s to inject youthful thinking into our “experienced” way of going about our jobs but we do need the unbounded imagination and eagerness of the newbies that come into our lives and challenge our sometimes stilted way of going about everyday business. I’m certainly grateful for the “What did he/she just say?” moment that hits me everytime one of those youngsters challenges me!
Of course Mintzberg was exaggerating about getting rid of all MBAs; he wanted to make a point.
But I’ve seen no indication that a young MBA grad is more likely to ask me an AHA question than a street-involved youth. As an Executive Director, in fact, the questions the Harvard MBA grad on my board would ask were the easiest to anticipate and prepare for. They were challenging and it was great that he asked questions the other board members needed to hear the answers to, but they were not creative. And we need to be creative and innovative if we are to change our world for the better. So screening out candidates who don’t have MBAs makes no sense at all; we need all kinds of intelligence in our organizations.
Hello Jane, I like Dr. Mintzberg since his ideas have impacted how I look at problems. Dr. Mintzberg may think that business schools graduate good employees but they don’t, they make well educated graduates. It is the employer’s responsibility to hire educated managers who will become successful at managing employees. It doesn’t matter how managers are educated if we continue to hire the wrong people to be our managers.
An MBA degree signifies that the holder completed the course requirements and paid the tuition.
All things considered I would prefer to hire an MBA with the talent to manage rather than an MBA, or a non-MBA, from the best schools, without the talent to manage.
I suppose there are MBAs that are well versed in management principles and others that are not. That’s likely a fact in whatever arena we participate. And, as someone else has already said, experience is the best teacher and we’d all love to get that experienced manager on our team. But I thought the topic here was MBAs and whether they bring value. In my opinion, they do. They give us the opportunity to mentor a manager that was serious enough to invest something extra in his/her educational experiences. Are there slouches out there getting MBAs? Certainly. But most are not that, most are eager to learn, and most are unafraid to ask questions (whether “AHA” or not..”never a stupid question”). If I don’t have these eager professionals to mentor/train to eventually take my place then I’m not doing my job and I also believe I’m shortchanging myself of a learning opportunity.
If we want to target something here on this topic, I suggest we target the institutions that herd professionals through their system, pocket their money, and give them their certification without even peaking at some sort of institutional integrity in the job they profess to be doing!
Dennis, the MBA grad I mentioned was no slouch. He was brilliant, and is CEO of a significant manufacturing company. He was also a top athlete and a wonderful volunteer. My point was that he was predictable. It seems the MBA schools turn out people who think a certain way and look at problems in a certain way and we sometimes need more creative solutions. The MBAs I have met have not been the innovators.
Hello Dennis, I agree with your sentiments. However, we do not need more managers who did not study management theory and practice since that would be bad for the manager, bad for his direct reports and bad his employer.
As an engineer I know there is a body of knowledge that engineers need to be effective engineers. There is body of knowledge that managers need to know to be effective at managing people, projects and businesses. Experience is not a substitute for learning that body of knowledge.
In my prior career I found that my engineering managers believed that good management practices were just common sense. This belief relieves the manager from having to acquire any new knowledge about managing because, after all, we engineers have an abundance of common sense. I can’t believe I just wrote that.
so what’s new?
another one who “hates” MBAs, different words, same old principles,
nothing to learn, just regurgitating…
Hi Veve, BTW, I have an MBA. 🙂
“..built for long term success, rather than short term profits. ” -agree, but if you work in or lead a public company in the current environment the mantra is “shareholder value” ~ if we could shift that to “stakeholder value” we might shift employees to a place of greater importance..our society is far too focused on this Quarters gain or loss.
Hi Ken, Your hitting on another of Mintzberg’s frustration with business. Great insight.
I have to admit I was shocked to read the statement when I opened my email and yet I understand the sentiment. However, like most things in life, there is a fine line to be drawn.
Running a business and not having an MBA is sometimes awkward when asked for qualifications. In my experience, though, not having one has been more than beneficial. I went through a small business “boot camp” a couple of years ago and there were MBAs in the class! Classroom lectures had taught them all theory and none of the nitty-gritty on how to run a business. Hmmmmm…why am I going to spend my money on something that is no guarantee of a job? In my own experience, hands on and real world experience are both better teachers than classroom learning. Yet…..many companies will not hire hire without that piece of paper, putting many people inot a big conundrum. I agree with the statement that businesses would do better if everyone got out of the: “we all need MBAs to run one” mindset. On the other hand, sometimes a little theory does help.
Last but not least, someone mentioned lack of creativity. From my experience with MBA graduates, a lot of them have come out of diploma mill schools. A degree always doesn’t mean creativity is there and also from my experience, creativity is often squashed.
Magic wand: People leave each and every meeting with at least an improved partial vision of the short term clearly aligned with the current state of the long term…knowing it is current state. Each person also leaves with his/her own specific ‘next steps’ with the latitude to choose from a number of paths. If the wand is still waving, each person can articulate how any step meets customer needs and can identify at least one way to improve any of those steps.
Navigating legacy/immediacy: Keep remembering that the clock is ticking, that one step is better than no step, and often, but not always, two steps is better than one step.
I had a comment in mind and Robert Gately (above) said it best. As much as I don’t necessarily “like” MBA’s they truly don’t drive the business world but rather the business world seems to have some impression that they are needed to the point that drives how many there are. The same goes for undergrad degrees. Is it really necessary to have four year degrees for most business jobs (especially when the degress is unrelated) when a two year would still fit the bill?
Hi Doug, the last time I checked only 20% of jobs actually require a four year college degree yet 37% of adults have one. Don’t know if the percentage is higher for jobs in business.
Robert.. not sure I understand what your percentages are measuring; they could be accurate, but not sure in what context you are citing. Common sense would suggest that total white collar jobs (including management) would display a far larger requirement (hence percentage) for undergrad and advanced degrees. My contention… technical white collar jobs typically make sense because of the technical training requirement. Simply requiring an degree of any kind as a measure of someone’s ability to follow a “discipline” and show some sort of incentive-to-succeed ambition is rediculopus.. but it’s the norm.
Hi Doug, I agree that, “Common sense would suggest that total white collar jobs … would display a far larger requirement … for undergrad and advanced degrees.”
Managers are always looking for cheap, easy, fast, and risk free ways to select their employees. Requiring a college degree is a good way to avoid blame since as we all know a college degree predicts job success. It doesn’t but it makes a good excuse when a new hire fails to become successful; it is always the employee’s fault and never the hiring manager’s fault even though the hiring manager made a bad hiring decision.
I show my clients how to hire for competence and talent which avoids bad hires.
Which, ironically, leads us to a post I made sometime back on my blog… http://dougsboomerrants.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/who-the-heck-invented-the-probationary-period/
Like many things in life.. there’s a kind of hypocracy that permeates the hiring process.
I’ll leave it there as this thread will go on forever. 🙂
I like Mintzberg’s books, but I think he missed the point by attacking MBA’s rather than leadership values. The problem is not that we hire MBA’s, but that we don’t hire for leadership values.
The test of a true leader is whether he/she’s presence improves the ability of the organization they lead to accomplish their mission. True leaders must place their organization’s mission above their own advancement.
The MBA degree is quite useful for providing formal tools in economics, accounting, strategy, operations management, etc., and provides a signaling mechanism to potential employers that a degree holder understands the basics of those subjects.
Unfortunately, the MBA is promoted as a quick path to being on top of the business pyramid and associated high wages. Universities charge more for MBA and EMBA courses than other courses, simply because graduates will earn more. Narcissists, bullies, sociopaths, greedy people, and lazy people may choose to pay their dues for 36 hours of business school in order to dominate others and get paid. It is this that poisons the MBA, not the knowledge gained.
I have 2 engineering degrees, an MBA earned after nearly 2 decades of leading people, and a partially completed PhD in Organizational Leadership, and am a lifelong learner. My degrees have all been useful to provide knowledge. However, they haven’t made me a better leader or manager.
I have a lot to learn as a leader – and hopefully will do so. What I’ve learned and applied so far has come from a combination of book knowledge, experience, and influencers. I’ve had great parents, good mentors, the privilege of leading really smart, high-performing people, experienced the grace of God, and just enough hardship and varied stressful experiences to round off sharp edges.
In summary, the MBA is not the problem, in my opinion, but rather the fact that we use it as a major criterion for leadership selection.
Good soundbite, don’t think much of the analysis. Short-termism is driven by shareholders, not MBAs.
Hello Marc, I wish I had written your words, “Narcissists, bullies, sociopaths, greedy people, and lazy people may choose to pay their dues for 36 hours of business school in order to dominate others and get paid. It is this that poisons the MBA, not the knowledge gained.”
I don’t fault all MBAs for the sometimes dismal state in which we in business increasingly find ourselves. Rather, I fault the idea that education trumps experience.
The best MBAs I have worked with are those who earned their MBA after working for several years. They are people who recognized how the theories and concepts they learned help to describe what the real world, rather than thinking the world itself must be bent to fit the theory.
Business theory is very different from one of the pure sciences like physics. Business theory is almost a misnomer. It is not built on theory. It comes from observing what works and what doesn’t, then trying to develop concepts to explain and categorize what has been observed. It is not derived from mathematical formulae in the way physics creates paths for engineering. Business theory is more descriptive than prescriptive. It helps us to see what is there through a variety of lenses, each of which illustrates a different aspect of reality, but none of which capture and unify the whole.
MBA graduates who learn organizational theory before they experience the reality often seem unaware of this vital distinction. They remind me of the mathematical economists who use advanced maths to analyze economics, not realizing that the “truth” of mathematics is absolute, while the underlying phenomena they’re modelling with their maths are flawed generalizations. The precision and infallibility of the math implies a precision and absolute truth in economics that is not supported by the flawed and imperfect concepts that are being analyzed. To say that a lot is missing from this analysis is a dramatic understatement.
The same is true with business theory – a lot is missing from the theories taught in business schools. I’ve concluded that what much of what is missing cannot be taught. It can only be experienced. So many times, I’ve watched my non-MBA clients eye up a business challenge and find a workable solution that preserves the soul of the organization. To many of my MBA clients, this same soul is viewed as a meaningless abstraction. It is not taught in business school, so it has no relevance to them. And they are not taught that the models that help us so much to codify and categorize reality also blind us to that which does not have a place in our imperfect models.
I wouldn’t get rid of all MBAs. But I would dramatically increase the importance of the right kind of experience in selecting, developing and promoting them. I’ve read all Mintzberg’s books, and he’s the business writer who has most influenced my ideas and my practice as a management consultant. But he’s not infallible – none of us are.
Hello Rick, well said. Ineffective managers who earn an MBA will still be ineffective managers if knowledge was not the cause of their ineffectiveness. Lack of knowledge is seldom the driver of ineffective managing.
I’m guessing that education is not the solution to a substantial proportion of the causes of ineffective management.
I did a consulting assignment at a largish corporation (6,500 employees) in which an organizational transformation was attempted over 4 years. It included an intensive multi-year management development program started with 360 feedback, private sessions with industrial psychologists, personal behaviour change goals, management training and experiential development, follow-up sessions with the psychologist, and two more rounds of 360 feedback and followup with the psychologist.
After 3 years, the 360 feedback showed that 30% of the highest rated managers remained at the top; the middle 40% improved significantly, and the bottom 30% actually became worse. (I don’t think they actually became worse – it’s likely that everyone’s expectations changed and the managers who were rated at the bottom from the beginning were judged as being worse against the raised expectations.)
In that corporation, the “bottom” 30% of the managers could not be helped to become more effective even through extensive management development. This made me somewhat skeptical of management development programs in changing behaviour.
I discussed this with one of the “failed” managers – a brilliant but prickly fellow with a PhD in electrical engineering who was the author of many scholarly and innovative papers. His take on it was quite revealing and insightful. He said “The only effective management development occurs at the mother’s knee. The child who smiles sweetly gets the candy, and learns the importance of being agreeable. They are the future successful managers”.
If he’s right, we could save a lot of money on Harvard MBAs by asking managerial candidates if their mother gave them candy. Ha, ha, ha!
Hello Rick, “I’m guessing that education is not the solution to a substantial proportion of the causes of ineffective management” is an insightful and accurate guess.
“I did a consulting assignment at a largish corporation … and two more rounds of 360 feedback and followup with the psychologist.” Now that is a daunting assignment.
“After 3 years, the 360 feedback showed that 30% of the highest rated managers remained at the top; the middle 40% improved significantly, and the bottom 30% actually became worse…”
Makes sense to me and I would predict that the highest rated managers would stay the highest rated since they behave as a manager should behave. They have the talent for managing people.
I’m heartened to read that the middle 40% improved significantly. Congratulations
The bottom 30% didn’t have adequate job talent no matter how hard management tried.
“In that corporation, the “bottom” 30% of the managers could not be helped to become more effective even through extensive management development. This made me somewhat skeptical of management development programs in changing behaviour.”
Did you read the book “Reengineering the Corporation”? It was a huge hit when it was published. However, after a few years it became apparent that 70% of corporate change programs failed to achieve their goals.
One of the authors of “Reengineering the Corporation” wrote a follow-up book, “Reengineering Management,” because it is the managers who need to do all that needs to be done and managers were ignored in “Reengineering the Corporation.”
I’m writing the third book, “Reengineering Employees,” and it is going to be short, very short, see the line below.
In “Reengineering Employees” I suggest that managers do not try to reengineer employees since it only will irritate them and cause all sorts of management headaches; don’t do it.
“He said “The only effective management development occurs at the mother’s knee. The child who smiles sweetly gets the candy, and learns the importance of being agreeable. They are the future successful managers”. If he’s right, we could save a lot of money on Harvard MBAs by asking managerial candidates if their mother gave them candy. Ha, ha, ha!”
You are almost correct.
It doesn’t matter whether successful employees, managers and leaders included, are born or made (nature or nurture) since they have been developing their talent since they were born; 16 hours a day, 5,840 hours per year, or 128,480 hours by the time they reach the age of 22.
As you found out, it is very hard to change the behaviors of the bottom 30%.
I’d be interested in learning how the middle 40% are doing three years after the change.
We need to be careful when changing other people’s behaviors because we can drive them right into a stressful work environment.
Employers would be better served by hiring employees who not only are competent but also have the talent for job success. This approach negates the need to hire expensive employees or graduates of the best schools or massive change efforts to get them to change their behaviors.
In reply to your note “I’d be interested in learning how the middle 40% are doing three years after the change,” I have this insight to share.
Unfortunately, the CEO who started this transformation left, a caretaker retained the transformation initiatives for a year or so, and then a new CEO was hired.
The behaviour of the new CEO flew in the face of the stated corporate values of integrity, teamwork, innovation and enthusiasm, which had been developed to reinforce and strengthen the best qualities of the organization.
For a few years, many of this middle 40% tried to perpetuate these corporate values, but gradually these ideals were supplanted by an amoral “whatever works” ethos.
I’ve continued to work with some of this 40% in other corporations and in spot assignments in the “mother ship”, and while some of them learned something valuable about being managers, there’s a lot of disappointment in the erosion of the wonderful culture that was beginning to gel after ~ 4 years.
Despite all this it was a wonderful experience that shows what is possible when all the “levers of change” are pulled in the same direction simultaneously.
Regarding your ideas about “reengineering employees”, I had to laugh – it’s funny but true. I have a little story to share that illustrates this.
One of the change initiatives in the transformation I’ve described above was the creation of “empowered work teams” to provide employees with the freedom and tools to participate in planning and change in their own work. In one blue collar department, the employees rebelled against the initiative and the attempt to get it started was rejected loudly and with a lot of profanity.
After a few months, the sponsoring manager called me to report an incident. A delegation of employees appeared at his door unannounced and said they wanted to “make a deal” with him. He agree to listen to their proposal. They had two points. 1. They never wanted to hear another word about “empowered work teams”, ever. 2. They wanted more control of their work. The manager agreed to both conditions. Smart fellow.
We can’t reengineer employees, but we can give them opportunities to experience what most of them want and need – the support and opportunities to develop mastery in their work, being valued and recognized for their skills and effort, being respected as mature adults, and doing something that matters. No employee reengineering is needed to create that – it already exists, even if it’s latent. We just have to create the organizational conditions to let it bloom.
If I have magic wand over businesses, I would change through communicating. Communication is the key in the business. Communication connect people with purpose. Without communication people get disconnected. Communication from top down creates awareness and from bottom up creates emergent realities. Thus, leaders make decision and suitable measures to minimize the gap between directed and emergent communication. I strongly believe that relationship plays vital role in connecting people. Leaders create culture of relationship based on their belief and philosophy. Effective organizations have culture of relationship based on equality, honesty and transparency. They are devoid of Ego, arrogance and incompetence.
I believe that when organizations have vision, they need to forgo small gain. There will be opportunities that will entice but effective leaders focus on the bigger goal. But those who try to en-cash all opportunities, they tend to shift their focus to achieve long term goals. Leaders know what needs to be sacrificed to achieve long term goal.
As I see it, the problem isn’t so much that we need to eliminate all MBAs, but that we ask MBA graduates to take on complex business issues and roles for which they are poorly trained. An MBA, as its name implies, is more oriented to teach students how to administer a business, which is vastly different from being able to transform and shift businesses in response to – or better yet, anticipation of – changes in their competitive environment. What is needed, I believe, is a much greater emphasis on what might be called MBI programs – masters in business innovation, rather than administration.
In my strategic innovation consulting work with client companies, I see management get into trouble most often when they are asked to make decisions for which there is little to no market research or other historic data. MBA training is largely grounded in quantitative analysis and case studies, both of which require historic inputs. But venturing into unchartered territory, as innovation requires them to do, by definition means that there are no direct case studies, market research or examples to build from. It becomes necessary to synthesize data, look for surrogate examples, focus more on the questions that must be addressed than the specific answers, and rely on inferential insights and intelligently managed risks rather than bullet-proof business cases.
It takes a far more integrative left-brain/right brain approach than the strictly quantitative left-brain approach that underpins the vast majority of MBA programs today.
It isn’t that MBAs are stupid; far from it. It’s that business schools typically do no equip today’s business students with the mindset, decision frameworks or tools to effectively meet or the realities and complexities of today’s business environment.
have worked with many MBA’s and they all had one thing in common: a disregard of Deming and a holy believe in Fred. Taylor. Deming (and quality) was inefficient, Taylor was efficient. This is what I think:
“Where Taylor rules (short term focus, efficiency, compliance), Deming is ignored (long term focus, effectiveness, quality).”
Remember that many people blamed for unethical behaviour (e.g. in the banking industry) defend themselves saying that it was all according to the rules (compliance).
This is also where Peter Drücker becomes relevant when he said that Leaders do the right things while managers do things right. Deming in these terms talked about (individual) leadership, while Taylor and MBA stopped at management.
Also most MBA’s seem not to agree with Deming’s statement that a single focus on cost (efficiency) would harm quality and would therefore cost far more money in the longer term. A focus on quality (effectiveness) however would save money, especially in the longer term.
And when they seem to agree they usually confuse quality (customer focus) with standards (internal focus, compliance, procedures)
Deming also said that because of the short-term focus, it would be a mistake to export American management to friendly nations. This is exactly what happened and what caused the current crisis. MBA was an important vehicle!