Does management emanate from nature?

Photo by Ben Sutherland


Finally, I have finished reading Daniel Pink’s new book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I don’t think the book needs another review (for a much better review than any I can write, see here). However, in the next few days I want to elaborate on and/or argue with some of the concepts in the book.

I want to start with this quote (an idea Dan mentions in his TED talk as well):

We forget sometimes that “management” does not emanate from nature. It’s not like a tree or a river. It’s like a television or a bicycle. It’s something that humans invented. As the strategy guru Gary Hamel has observed, management is a technology. And like motivation 2.0, it’s a technology that has grown creaky. While some companies have oiled the gears a bit, and plenty more have paid lip service to the same, at its core management hasn’t changed much in a hundred years. Its central ethics remains control; its chief tools remain extrinsic motivators…

While I agree that management hasn’t changed a lot over the last 100 years and that it is still built around misguided Taylorism based conventional wisdoms that is about time we break, I find it hard to agree with the main claim. Management does emanate from nature. In fact, the problem with management today as I see it is that we stopped doing what is natural and human and started using artificial methods to deal with people.

Being empathic, creating connections and socializing, talking and listening and even respecting our fellow human beings are not unnatural things.

When you start treating management as a race for productivity you get an unnatural phenomenon. When you start using carrots and sticks like people are jackasses you get an unnatural phenomenon. When you rely only on measurement of only the things you can measure to fuel management you get an unnatural phenomenon.

Pink claims that we should throw the word “management “onto the linguistic ash heap alongside words like “icebox” and “horseless carriage”. He claims that today we see many companies getting rid of “middle management” which leaves fewer managers with more people to manage. I think exactly the opposite.

I think what this world need is more managers. More discussions of the word and what it means to be a real manager of real people. Not more of the word that goes with every other role in every other company, but the word that describes the true role of a manager – people. more discussion about a manger who brings the best out of people. About a manager who listens to people and helps them excel. About the manager who takes out the linchpin and the artist in people. About a manager that brings out the natural human being in people.

I don’t think there is anything more natural than management. We just need to wake up, understand that we have been talking about the wrong thing and making the wrong assumptions and start being actual human beings again.



Shorts: #Linchpin on Teamwork


Seth Godin, Linchpin:

There are plenty of bosses who fear the idea of indispensable employees and would instead encourage you to focus on teamwork. “Teamwork” is the word bosses and coaches and teachers use when they actually mean, “Do what I say”. It’s not teamwork to stand by and do whatever the captain or supervisor tells you to. It might be cooperative or compliant or useful, but it’s not teamwork.

And I will take this idea a step further. In the world that is developing all around us, the old kind of teamwork, where they say “teamwork” but actually mean “Do what I say”, just cannot work. It cannot work, because managers just don’t know enough anymore. Their employees are smarter than them. And by smarter I don’t necessarily mean IQ smarter, but that they have different strengths and different areas of knowledge. The world is too complicated and too specialized for every manager to know and be able to do each job better than the employees who do it every day. Thus, teamwork becomes an exercise in the indirect approach. By letting go of the control, you create a more cohesive team. By letting every employee become the master of his own domain within the large purpose of the team, you create real synergy.

And the manager?

He stops dealing with control that demands surveillance, motoring, giving answers and micro-measuring. Instead he starts dealing with enabling excellence – which involves creating communications and understanding, taking hurdles out of the way, showing them how they create a difference, helping people find their strengths and asking the right questions.

Finally, another quote from Linchpin:

If you want a job where the people who work for you do exactly what they’re told, don’t be surprised if your boss expects precisely the same thing from you…

Great bosses and world-class organizations hire motivated people, set high expectations, and give their people room to become remarkable.