Why Managers Are Always a Bad Idea

Day 6 of 21 days with Chuck’s new book, Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea

Managers are a business disease of the Industrial Age. They’ve only been around for about 110 years, but should go away as quickly as possible. Few things are as disruptive, unhelpful and unproductive in the workplace as managers. And the premise for needing them is epically bad.

We expect people to act like adults in society, as our next door neighbors, at a restaurant, in the grocery store, or at the recreation center. But if they work for us, we herd them into the office Day Care Center and manage them like they are nine years old. We tell them when school starts, when they can take recess, when lunch starts and ends, and we hover over them and manage every minute of their day as if they had no self-control, discipline or dignity at all. It’s just nuts. But it all makes sense if you trace the origins of managers back to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s foundational “Shop Management” paper from 1903.

Peter Drucker said Taylor was as much impact on the 20th century as Marx, Darwin, and Freud. Taylor asserted that all employees are “stupid and lazy”. He said there was only one solution; find people who are smart and motivated to make them less stupid and less lazy. And modern management was born.

Managers are the principal carriers of most of the business diseases of the Industrial Age and the continuing presence of Industrial Age business practices in the 21st century. More than any other position in a company, the manager is the embodiment of the almost all of the core attributes of an Industrialist:

1) They build fiefdoms

2) They believe in closed markets (try to take some budget, an employee or a process away from them to make another department bigger),

3) They resist progress and are committed to the status quo – new ideas/technology that threaten the size of their fiefdom are not welcome

4) They are Users (of people, budget, technology and infrastructure to create Cash Cows to meet existing quotes. Creating things usually requires change, and threatens their fiefdom.

5) The focus on the Competitor – Other departments are viewed as competitors for the budget, praise and perceived value to the company.

6) They are committed to Short-term Decision-making – An Industrialist will mortgage the future of the company to make the shareholders happy today. A manager will do the very same thing to make the boss one level above them happy today.

Replace Managers With Leaders (a lot fewer of them)

If you want to build a culture of participation, creation, innovation and sharing that builds successful companies, managers have to go. They should be replaced with leaders, and a lot less of them.

Leaders create vision and give general guidance and direction. They train, and provide infrastructure, but then they also do what they are asking others to do. Manager’s focus on making others productive. Leader’s focus on their own productivity, and inspire others to be more productive by their example.

Manage Stuff, Lead People

The fundamental flaw in the “manager as solution” mindset is that people need to be managed. They don’t. They need to be led, and the difference is not semantic, it is gigantic.

The simple principle is this: manage stuff; lead people. When people are extensions of machines, they are “stuff” to be managed. But if they are fully human, they require leadership instead.

In our company, we only manage stuff, like processes, systems, delivery of goods and services, accounting, marketing, sales, etc. These are all “things” to be managed, and everyone in the business manages stuff. We don’t need someone with the title of “manager” to hover over any of us to ensure the stuff will get managed. The people manage the stuff, and we lead the people.

Stuff definitely needs to be managed. It 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. People just need to be led – give them a vision of what needs to be done and get out of the way.

Management MAKES people lazy.

Some (very few) people are truly lazy. But most employees are wishing they could be Stakeholders, and are simply raising themselves to our lowest expectation of them. Micro management is dehumanizing, strips people of their dignity, and makes them work at the lowest level that will go unpunished, because that’s exactly what we’re asking them to do. Management MAKES otherwise motivated people, lazy.

Management MAKES people stupid.

If we believe people are not as smart as we are, we micro-manage them and strip them of the ability to create, solve problems, lead, initiate and take ownership. But all we do in the process is make them stupid.

Employees are not stupid, they just live down to our lowest expectations of them. If we treat them like smart and motivated Stakeholders, we’ll see a whole different side of them.
Management MAKES people stupid.

LCD Management Demotivates Stakeholders

Stop doing LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) Management.

Management many times is the great leveler – taking the wind out of the top performers to ensure the few lazy ones work harder. If managers got out of the way, they would find out that most people are not lazy. If you build an environment to manage lazy people, your Stakeholders will leave.

The Manager is Dead, Long Live the Leader

Managers will not be tolerated in the Participation Age. To achieve escape velocity from the Industrial Age, companies will need to dump the manager role, and replace it with one-tenth as many leaders. All they are doing is making people stupid and lazy by endless meetings, reports, conference calls, and other devices designed to make them look like they are adding value.

The Industrial Age is over – Stop managing people into being stupid and lazy who are otherwise already smart and motivated. Replace your managers with a lot fewer leaders and watch your company grow.

This is a summary of a chapter from Chuck’s new book, “Why Employees Are ALWAYS a Bad Idea (And Other Business Diseases of the Industrial Age)”. Click here to pre-order this new ground breaking book at a discount on IndieGoGo.com until July 28.