Modern Management Explained

An article in the BBC inadvertently tells us what is wrong with modern management:

Many of us shy away from public speaking. A 2014 survey by Chapman University found a fear of public speaking was the biggest phobia among respondents – 25.3% said they feared speaking in front of a crowd.

However, that fear may be limiting our career opportunities. A survey of more than 600 employers in 2014 found that among the top skills recruiters look for, “oral communication” was number one and “presentation skills” number four;

Here’s a novel idea: why not assign those who are natural public speakers to those roles where presentations are a regular feature of the job? Presumably those who fear public speaking have other valuable skills, so why don’t we identify them and assign those individuals to positions where those skills will add the most value? Perhaps this is better than trying to beat round pegs into square holes by insisting everyone should be an expert public speaker, no?

One of the things that pisses me off more than anything is “management” has been touted as a science for decades now, and there are literally tens of thousands of books on management techniques and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on training courses on the same subject. Sprouting from this has been the rise of the sprawling corporate HR department which is justified on the grounds that personnel management is so advanced these days that it requires teams of experts to assess each employee, ascertain their personality type and skills, and properly assign them so their utility is maximised and teams and departments are properly balanced.

Does this actually happen? Does it fuck: despite HR now enjoying a seat on the board of every major company, we are now being told that they can’t even manage to assign those who are good at public speaking to the roles which involve public speaking, and instead those who are crap at it are being told their careers will now suffer. We might as well fire all the HR staff right now and let department managers handle it all, like they used to.

This is also telling:

traditional management skills such as “managing administrative activities” came down at the bottom.

Having observed how administrative activities are normally managed in any large organisation, I can well believe it. I suspect the reason is because the modern brand of manager sees the day-to-day management of routine activities as beneath them; better to advance their careers throwing spanners into works at regular intervals and speaking in woolly terms about “diversity” and “behaviours”.

Yet a 2014 online survey of 2,031 US workers found that 12% would willingly step aside to let someone else give a presentation, even if it lost them respect at work.

98% would willingly step aside to let somebody else fix their PC, too. Why is giving a presentation considered something everybody should be good at? Or is that all that happens in major companies these days, presentations?

“Public speaking is no longer optional in your professional life,” agrees speaking coach Steve Bustin, author of The Authority Guide to Presenting and Public Speaking.

“It’s an essential business skill that needs to be learned and practiced like any other skill,” he says. “Many job interviews, especially for senior level jobs, now require a presentation to the interview panel”

And doesn’t that just describe the requirements of a modern manager in a nutshell? Competence, diligence, transparency, ability to shoulder responsibility, organisational skills, experience, technical knowledge, and getting shit done are all subordinate to one’s ability to use PowerPoint and sound off in meetings.

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10 thoughts on “Modern Management Explained

  1. “Does it fuck: despite HR now enjoying a seat on the board of every major company, we are now being told that they can’t even manage to assign those who are good at public speaking to the roles which involve public speaking, and instead those who are crap at it are being told their careers will now suffer. ”

    I did rather get the impression from the HR in US & UK companies I worked for they were really looking for people with identical temperaments, skills and abilities, certainly within the same general job types.

    That way, any given position could be given to any random clone without thought. I imagine this mostly because they were good at presentations, but not too flash at thinking.

    The rise of the HR, in parallel with the university diploma mill, has done some serious damage.

  2. So much for basic team work with some doers, a speaker, a technician and a manager in any organizational group with the speaker conveying the message to and from the team both internally and externally?

    I have experienced nerves public speaking and I even got some personal coaching to help me with this in my earlier career days. It can be a bit frightening at the time but I found after the first 60 secs I was right. The best technique for me was holding a pen in my hand, watch how many new speakers, say converted sportsmen on news shows do this as it is a well known technique to somehow settle you down and your hands seems to know where to go and you stop thinking about them and all of a sudden you have finished your presentation.

  3. “A survey of more than 600 employers in 2014 found that being a glib bastard was the number one sought after skill”.

    Number one rule of interviewing: the people interviewing will favour candidates most like themselves, whether they do it conciously or unconsciously. Which is why when HR get involved in the hiring process for hardcore engineering jobs the result is usually a massive fuck up.

    Anyway, whenever people talk about my ‘career’ I laugh. I have a job, not a career.

  4. I disagree, a bit. Odds are that the person who is a great presenter also doesn’t know very much about the topic. In some areas this is harmless, others less so. If you fail to find somebody who is both a technical expert and great presenter, you’d probably be better off with somebody who is average at both than just a great presenter. Given that in most areas the person presenting must have some clue about their topic, this tends to sort out itself to a degree.

    In theory the more knowledgable person could write the presenter a script. But this doesn’t happen in the real world; the person facing clients is usually assumed to be, and quite often is, the most senior person, who is also calling the shots. They may quite often have the sense to recognise their limitations and defer appropriately, but not always.

    I work in financial advisory (for big numbers) and I have seen the damage that has been done by relatively inexpert colleagues steering the advisory process. Usually it amounts to not much more than wasted time (which magically translates into higher fees for us) but bad decisions are made (a priori – not just with the benefit of hindsight.)

  5. Like everything else, the world of employment is being re-focussed around womens’ skills.

    They can’t understand techie people who just get things done, so they devalue and ignore them.

  6. “the modern brand of manager sees the day-to-day management of routine activities as beneath them; better to advance their careers throwing spanners into works at regular intervals”

    In the large organisation for which I work, where my role is, if I say it myself, somewhat beneath me (I am funding law studies), I have had a number of “operations managers” over the years. They have varied in style (wildly), personality and sex, but have been united by their evident belief that change is the same thing as management. It appears to be inconceivable to them to come into the role and leave things as they are. This would presumably not be considered sufficiently proactive. Evidently looking over their shoulders constantly, they feel that if they’re not Making Changes and Stamping their Authority on procedures then their own bosses will conclude that they just don’t know what to do. The practical consequences of this are that operational procedures are constantly being switched around, with emphasis shifting from X to Y to Z and back to X as the ops manager changes. I have seen it all (I was with the company for the whole of my undergrad and am now on to postgrad) but the relatively high turnover of staff at operations level means that most people at my level have to learn to adapt to the whims of the OM. The wastefulness and inefficiencies inherent in this approach are painfully clear (well, it’s not painful, because I don’t care that much): no sooner have staff got up to speed with the requirements of OM1 than in comes OM2 with a different set of requirements. Rinse and repeat.

  7. I did rather get the impression from the HR in US & UK companies I worked for they were really looking for people with identical temperaments, skills and abilities, certainly within the same general job types.

    Yup. And the blue-chip companies all want superstars from the top schools all with massive egos and each with the ambition to become a future CEO. What could possibly go wrong?

    The rise of the HR, in parallel with the university diploma mill, has done some serious damage.

    Quite.

  8. Number one rule of interviewing: the people interviewing will favour candidates most like themselves, whether they do it conciously or unconsciously. Which is why when HR get involved in the hiring process for hardcore engineering jobs the result is usually a massive fuck up.

    Exactly.

    Anyway, whenever people talk about my ‘career’ I laugh. I have a job, not a career.

    I’m much the same. Whenever I’m asked who my career manager is, I say “You’re looking at him.”

  9. They have varied in style (wildly), personality and sex, but have been united by their evident belief that change is the same thing as management. It appears to be inconceivable to them to come into the role and leave things as they are. This would presumably not be considered sufficiently proactive.

    Absolutely. This phenomenon must have plagued organisations since the dawn of time.

  10. Like everything else, the world of employment is being re-focussed around womens’ skills.

    Yup. What I wrote about here.

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