On Management

Readers contribute to a growing list of management foibles.

A few months ago, I wrote a column in which I listed 10 stupid things that companies do to demoralize employees and aggravate customers. Since then, many readers have e-mailed their thoughts on stupid and shortsighted management practices to add to my long list. Here's a sampling: Start-stop; start-stop; start-crash! -- Many companies fall victim to the "programme du jour" syndrome. Programs start with great fanfare, buttons and banners are rolled out, speeches are made, and training classes set. Then, just a few weeks or months later, the whole program is suspended or abandoned. Occasionally, an initiative is so valuable that it is restarted; but because time has been lost, it now becomes a "crash" program. (A word to wise management: Make sure you are not jumping on fads. Consider the overall plans of the business and how each new idea fits into those plans.) Ask, but don't listen (or do anything) -- This one really stirs up the troops. The company conducts an employee-opinion survey, hoping to discover improved morale. But it doesn't do anything about the findings -- or, if it does take action, it fails to communicate how that response and the survey results were related. (An example of how to do this right: I once attended a Wal-Mart managers meeting where Sam Walton explained -- in simple language -- why the company was changing several major policies, specifically in response to feedback from employees. Even the policies that didn't change were explained. Is it any wonder that Wal-Mart was able to get "ordinary people to do extraordinary things"?) Misplaced managers -- Several readers cited examples of stupid practices in promotion policies. For example, companies promote ambitious go-getters from low-level jobs into middle management, paying them modestly for long hours and extra effort -- and then bring in highly paid outsiders who know little or nothing about the business to be their bosses. To make matters worse, the good people in the organization are then expected to train their new bosses. (Good personal and professional development work will identify promotable people who come up through the ranks and help them earn these coveted spots.) In a similar vein, companies often promote their best technical or creative people into supervisory jobs -- usually with little or no training or preparation. The problem is that technical and creative people often are not suited for supervisory jobs. (Companies frequently do this in order to pay them more money under their rigid compensation policies. However, it's better to create a separate pay ladder or special exceptions for these valuable people, rather than put them into positions where they will be ineffective.) Punishing the many -- Companies often impose restrictions on many employees to guard against the irresponsibility of a few. Corporate policy and procedure manuals grow daily for this reason. (The sad fact is that having a proliferation of policies limits the initiative of the best people and doesn't slow down the miscreants one bit. Procedures can't compensate for a lack of personal integrity.) Promoting the politician, not the performer -- This one is deadly. The bootlicker, or worse yet the smooth-talking, slick politician, gets the promotion that rightly belongs to the true performer who produces results, not rhetoric. (This is one sure way to run off the best people. Here is where performance appraisals, especially the 360-degree type, expose the pretenders and reward the performers.) Good companies try very hard not to do stupid things. And the best own up to it when they do go astray and try to fix the problem. Which kind of company is yours? John Mariotti is president of The Enterprise Group, Knoxville, and author of The Shape Shifters: Continuous Change for Competitive Advantage. His e-mail address is: [email protected]

Hide comments

Comments

  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Publish