The corporate abnormality that is the modern organization could well carry a sticker
created by managers for managers
A system that extends beyond natural social patterns – which is precisely what happened in the industrialized expansion of the twentieth century – requires energy to prevent it from regressing back to its natural state. In the end, the unnatural status quo comes to focus almost solely on keeping that energy flowing.
Management is the fuel, the process and the outcome of the modern organization.
So, if management is a necessary construct of any modern organization that insists on maintaining its corporate abnormality, we might expect to see a near-clinical focus upon spotting, selecting and placing the very best managers in position to
[reap the benefits of others’ work]
do what they do best.
BadConsultant is willing to bet that you just rolled your eyes. And you wouldn’t be alone in that. Because one of the greatest factors of corporate abnormality is that it is largely un-self-aware
[we’ll say it again, misused hyphens and made up terminology is cool]
and certainly often delusional.
Were we being paid by the word for writing this, we might extend into the psychological roots of why that delusion prevails – but we’re not, so we won’t. We’ll stick to the subject in hand. The basic error of who you ask to manage.
Most managers enter the role by accident; and it happens when this becomes that.
Think of a human being, working on a task. We might call them an individual contributor, a team member, a performer, a colleague, an employee or
a worker. Now let’s make them really good at what they do. We might call them a high performer.
And now, reaffirmed by all the labyrinthine complexity of the annual performance review and compensation cycle, our high performer receives the message loud and clear that:
We love it when you do this
Insatiable for higher levels of achievement, and noticing that other people aren’t able to replicate the performance of our high performer, the message is refined through the objective setting process, becoming:
We love it when you do this, and want to give you every opportunity to do more this
The high performer, who likely enjoys the strokes s/he is receiving and relishes the opportunity to receive more, who may even be fundamentally wired to the achievement motive, shoots for the moon and gets the moon. And probably keeps getting new moons for a few performance cycles
[we wouldn’t call them months, quarters or years now, would we?]
until… well… there are limits to how much one person can do. The high performer hits breaking point and the organization, sucking up all this productivity like a black hole, quietly and un-self-aware-ly
panics. How can it get more this, when the person who does this can’t do any more this?
And now the basic error.
Let’s get an assistant for the high performer. The message is revised once more:
We love it when you do this, and want to give you every opportunity to do more this, so we’re providing you with a way to extend your thoughts and actions to do even more this
The assistant is thought of as an extra pair of hands, a mindless appendage that doesn’t think for itself, does just what it’s told to by the super-brain of the high performer
[can I get a ‘Taylorism rocks!’ – sing hallelujah!]
and, while the assistant is learning, it works just fine. But sooner or later, maybe even through the performance review process, it becomes clear that the assistant isn’t a robot or Taylorist work-unit. It speaks, it thinks, it feels, it…
You know how we loved it when you did that? Well, we need you to do this now because the assistant wants to do more of that…
This and that.
The high performer has become a manager, simply by being hooked on growing her own performance. Stroked, recognized and rewarded for delivering the goods, suddenly he’s adrift in unfamiliar seas. This has become that.
And right here is the point where the error is either corrected or compounded. And most modern organizations miss the point completely
[did we mention the words delusional and un-self-aware?]
It’s a simple question
This is your new this – do you want to do this? If not, you can go back to doing that with no penalty – no harm, no foul. Which this works best for you?
Of course, we know the answer.
And it isn’t pretty.
Because the modern organization sells the myth of climbing the ladder, of colonialists overseeing empires, of bigger is better, of being the energy that holds regression at bay, of… Well, most people trapped into management by accident find it very hard to answer the ‘which this’ question honestly – bigger paychecks, social recognition and elevation in the tribe are addictive.
By the time the ‘which this’ question gets asked – if it does at all – it’s mostly too late. The basic error gets compounded.
So, if it’s so hard to correct the error later, it stands to reason to intervene at the point where that basic error is introduced.
And, indeed, we’ll be diving into that in the next post in the ‘This and That’ series.
‘Til we three meet again,