Evolution of unsuccessful managers – From Ask Anya mails

Ask Anya MailFollowing the post  This is Sparta?!! – Since when did it become a norm not to achieve any result? 

Question:

“Why unsuccessful managers are not eliminated by an evolutionary process? The answer I suggest is: it is because starting from a certain level in the hierarchy manager can always put the blame for the failure on those below. He can “get the things done” by squeezing the last drop of blood from his subordinates He will just get another team and will be shown as an example to other managers.”

Answer:

I’d like to address several important issues deriving from this question.

First of all, who said unsuccessful managers are not eliminated evolutionary?

As in any other profession, the overall managers’ population is distributed “normally”, meaning that at least 70% of them are not as bad as you put it. In addition, companies have mechanisms in place, such as performance appraisals, reviews and feedback from employees on all levels to ensure this “natural” selection. All these are far from being perfect, but the system is working. More than that, people can always vote with their legs, they can simply walk away on such managers and that doesn’t go unnoticed by the organization. Management has more in common with poker than chess; here one plus one is rarely equals two. Mere substitution won’t work that smoothly, which brings me to the second point.

Regarding the “He will just get another team” statement – this is not as easy as it sounds. To build a functioning team is a tedious, time- and money-consuming endeavor. Without a manager the work can slow down, but without a team there is no work at all.

And last but not the least: you don’t need to be at certain level to blame your subordinates for failure. Unfortunately blaming others is a favorite strategy for some, whether they are managers or not. As J. K. Rowling said in her wonderful speech to Harvard graduates: “There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for stirring you in the wrong direction”. The same goes for blaming your team or anyone else. The expiry date for such a manager will arrive much sooner than you may think.

One can fool someone once, but you can never fool reality. It always comes around. I would have said that it does it like a boomerang, but the real boomerangs don’t come around 🙂

Reality still does.

PS: Here is the speech, it’s hilarious, enjoy 🙂

2 thoughts on “Evolution of unsuccessful managers – From Ask Anya mails

  1. Anya, there is a phenomenon that inhibits Darwinian optimization of an organization called the ‘clay layer’. Basically a self-reinforcing critical mass in middle management layers will self-organize and protect their interests, which usually means supporting the status quo. This does not fool reality but creates its own.

  2. Hi Mark, glad to see you 🙂 You are right, the inertia often is very high.
    However phenomenon you refer to is how communities are being built. From the ancient times, those that knew how to work as a group survived longer and lived in prosperity, when others disappeared. But no one exists in isolation, even a large group…

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