We’ve got rid of managers! Really? Good luck!

Can you really manage engagement without managers?

This excellent Gallup article looks at online retailer Zappos’ plans to run their organisation without managers!  The upshot of the argument is that Gallup doesn’t seem to think that engagement can be managed without great managers.  I agree and Zappos’ plans look like a recipe for confusion and muddle. Zappos’ best move, Gallup’s research suggests, might be to replace bad managers with great ones.  Again, I agree.

Sadly, “management” and “managers”, have become shorthand for bureaucracy, autocracy and command and control as well as micro management.  This fashion is a pity because “good” management really is quite different.  The problem appears to be, and the Gallup article makes reference to this reality, “good” management is pretty rare and very badly understood.  Well, that is if you see a difference between fashionable meanings of the words “management” and “manager” and the definitions of management put forward by such leading lights as Peter Drucker.  The data communications company that hated management and that I worked for in the 1980s eventually went bust and no longer exists.

Another problem is the fashion of seeing “managing” as just one thing like communications or leadership rather than a set of coherent and interconnected activities that might include communicating and leading.  This is why, in trying to make managers’ lives easier, I am always emphasising the importance of good planning, effective organisation, inspiring leadership and efficient control.  It’s about getting each of these elements right not just some of them and bags with tricks and techniques just don’t work.

Getting rid of managers to remove bad management just does not appear to make much sense nor does it appear to be supported by good evidence and research.  Holacracy may look like an easy way out and very fashionable but it is more likely to lead to poor results for the organisations that attempt implementing it.

I raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK – a very small donation at http://www.virginmoneygiving.com/everyonedeservesgoodmanagement would be most appreciated.

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