5 Ways to Learn to Manage Badly

Shooting From the Hip

Much of my early working life was spent wondering about the difference between what management thinks and says about itself,  and the chaotic reality all of the places where I was working. If you listen to management people, you would think that long ago we found the solutions to all the problems, that everybody's practicing them, and knows what to do, and everything is going great. But if you ask the people working in those companies, when no one in power is listening, like by the water cooler, they would tell you the place was a madhouse, and they were afraid of losing their jobs.

So when I read about these management methods, ranging from six Sigma to lean, to managerial or operational and or financial management, I'm left scratching my head. When I read the stuff that comes out of a standard Masters in business administration course, I'm left in awe at the gap between what is presented so authoritatively on paper, and the much messier reality where the work is done. What I see mostly is some variation or other of the Mushroom School of Management:

  • Keep 'em in the dark
  • cover them with crap,
  • and scream at them to grow!

And in most small to medium businesses, where I have spent most of my time, most people learned to manage based on one of the 5 following popular management training methods:

  1. The "it's what my family did" school of management training
  2. The "it's what my family did" school of management training
  3. "It's all I've ever seen" school of management training
  4. "I just copied what the first people who trained me did" school of management training
  5.  "I do what I read in a book because it sounded cool to me"  school of management training
  6. And finally, "I figured it out once a long time ago, as best I could, and since it seemed to work then, I just keep doing it" school of management training, aka Shooting From the Hip school

Shooting from the Hip mostly misses the target and can kill innocent bystanders.

And when you stop for a second, and look at it, all humor aside, doesn't it seem a little risky? I mean, if you run a small or medium business your patrimony and that of members of your family and your close friends are on the line, so you probably want to find a little more scientific, effective, and a little less whacky method to learn by.

Oh, and I forgot the, "I found a bunch people who think the way I do, so I use them to reinforce what I'm already doing" school of management. 

About the Author

Dan Strongin works with medium to small companies, helping them master the art and science of managing.