Manage Stuff. Lead People.
The end of management.
Management is good. Managers are bad. There is no room for them in a Participation Age business. People don’t need to be managed; they need to be led. The difference is not semantic, it is gigantic.
The Industrialists did their dead level best to re-make people into simple extensions of machines. When people are extensions of machines, they are “stuff” to be managed. But if they are fully human, they require leadership, not management.
In our business, we only manage stuff; processes, systems, delivery of goods and services, accounting, marketing, sales, etc. These are all “things” to be managed. Everyone in the business manages stuff of some sort or another. But none of us needs someone with the title of “manager” to hover over us to ensure the stuff will get managed.
Stuff definitely needs to be managed. Unlike people, stuff is inherently stupid and lazy. It needs to be told what to do; it doesn’t have a brain of its own or any motivation to assemble itself. The packaging material and the product just sit on the counter until someone picks both of them up and puts them in the box. Someone who is smarter and more motivated than the stuff needs to manage that process, but the smart and motivated person doing the packing does not need managing – they need to be led.
Accounting numbers are also stupid and lazy. They just sit on spreadsheets until a smart and motivated person comes along to update, organize and report on them. That process needs to be managed, but not the person doing the accounting – they need to be led.
Every process, system, product, and service in a business is inherently stupid and lazy and needs to be managed. Unfortunately, managers don’t see much difference between the people, and the stuff or processes in the business. To a manager, people are extensions of machines or processes, and both of them need the hovering involvement of a third party to force them to work. That other person, called “manager”, doesn’t actually pack the box.
The manager assumes the person is as inert as the packing materials, and must be “managed” to ensure they will actually pick up the packing materials and put them in the box. The manager exists to ensure the person doesn’t just sit there like the packing materials. It’s a waste of two good lives; the life of the manager who does nothing, and the packer, who is treated like a nine-year old incapable of being responsible.
A leader will do it quite differently. They will not hover over or manage the adult Stakeholders. They will impart vision and guidance, including why we do what we do, metrics for success and metrics for exceeding the objective. A leader will train and provide the necessary infrastructure, and they will create a process that requires the packing person or the process itself to proactively report to the leader regularly how things are going.
Then the leader will do something extraordinary that the manager would rarely do – they will GO AWAY AND BE PRODUCTIVE, TOO. Instead of hovering over the children in the day care center, they will go somewhere and do something themselves that adds to the bottom line. Or they might just be one of the packers or one of the accountants, and join right in being productive; leading and motivating by example, not by threat, persuasion, cajoling or hovering.
A manager justifies their existence by making other people productive more than by being productive themselves. Managers “feel” productive – they have tons of monitoring on their plate. But a leader will lead by example, get in the trenches and be one of the productive people.
Leaders can afford to do this because they hire Stakeholders, not employees, and don’t need to live in a day care center where they are watched like nine year olds. Most of the work of the manager disappears or gets dispersed among all the adult Stakeholders.
Everyone is a Leader
Stakeholders are adult leaders, too, and understand that if they have all the training and equipment they need, and clearly understand the objective required, they will gladly take the bull by the horns and “own” their tasks, job, process and result. Why? Because they also know they own part of the compensation (profit-sharing) that will come from that level of ownership. Taking on the former tasks of the manager is one more way for them to Make Meaning, not just money.
Adults Without Managers – An Old Idea
The idea of managing stuff but leading people is not a new concept. A store owner prior to the Industrial Age hired someone else to stock shelves, trained them and gave them the tools they needed to do it. Then that leader went back to being productive themselves. If the stocker wasn’t productive, they were let go and the leader got someone who could self-manage. After training the new person, the leader went back to being productive again. Managers hang on to employees who need to be managed because it justifies their existence. A leader fires them and finds a Stakeholder.
In a great modern business, as before the Industrial Age, everyone produces something, whether it is maintenance, accounting, packing, new product development, or vision and leadership. No one stagnates around watching other people do the work. Stakeholders are all leaders, and all of the manage stuff.
Fire All The Managers – All of Them (Including Yourself)
You can replace five or ten managers with one leader, easily. It’s a great money saver and you’ll find out real fast who are the chidren (employees) who need to be moved along, and who are your adult Stakeholders who will take over the very few things the manager was doing that were of any value.
Keep Only The Stakeholders
Are you managing employees/children? If you are, my guess is you’re really tired of it. Stop it. Tell the nine-year olds it’s time to grow up and be adult Stakeholders. Show them the stuff that needs to be managed, then tell them everyone is responsible to lead in their area of expertise. Then go get a job and be productive yourself. If you have employees who don’t want to grow up and at least lead themselves, find someone who will. There are plenty of Stakeholders out there.
Managers – A Business Disease of the Industrial Age
Managing people (not stuff) is a disease of the Industrial Age. It’s a recently invented construct and is a dead end process that maintains people at the nine year old level. And it dehumanizes them as if they were an extension of a stupid and lazy machine.
Leaders – What People Have Always Needed
Leading has been around since the dawn of man. It was not invented, and is the time proven method for motivating people. Everyone in your business should do it in their area of expertise. It’s rewarding and humanizing.
Get out of the Industrial Age into the Participation Age. Manage stuff. Lead people.