Business

The Micromanager’s Guide to the Galaxy

Micromanagement

Classically Educated is dedicated to showcasing the largest number of different interesting subjects possible, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t visit the business world every once in a while – after all, a great number of our readers spend most of their waking hours working in an office setting.

The last time we explored the business world, we didn’t exactly focus on best practices and financial wizardry, but instead attempted to identify the dumbest management fads ever.

Perhaps the time has come to do a serious article on business, and explore the trends in… oh, who am I kidding.  There are plenty of excellent business books and blogs to get the good stuff, and the errors are so much more entertaining.

So today, we’ll take a look at the most irritating piece of semi-human fauna one will ever encounter within the workplace ecosystem: the micromanager.  Micromanagement is probably the easiest way to kill any budding buy-in and creativity, both of which are undesirable, because it means that people in the company are treated as adults and have freedoms that many managers are afraid of.  So, in the spirit of making companies a little less threatening to insecure managers, we proudly present a list of the things that make an effective micromanager.

1) Things must be perfect to be released.  There used to be a sign on the wall in Facebook’s offices that said “Done is better than perfect”, which embraced change and gave employees tacit permission to make mistakes in the name of progress.  A good micromanager will always endeavor to act precisely the opposite way.  Things must be perfect, and personally reviewed at least five times by the manager in charge before being released in beta versions.  And employees must be constantly reminded that perfection is the only acceptable result.  If this delays projects constantly and causes missed deadlines, so be it.  There is no replacement for perfection.

walmart deli equipment

2) Some people insist that process is king.  A good micromanager knows that these people are wrong.  Process is not king…  process is GOD.  Strict adherence to processes and regulations is much more important than any positive results that might arise from stepping out of the process structure.  And if any activity within the company is identified as having too few processes, then it must be brought up to standard.  This is especially true if there is a manager who believes in delegating and allowing his people to use their own judgement in charge of that activity, and is doubly true if the department is successful, and therefore undermining the spirit of process-as-God that is being imposed in the rest of the company.

3) Meetings are important.  They are important for two reasons: the first is that everyone must be aligned and agree to follow the process and to iron out all the details regardless of agreed-on dates.  The second is that only in meetings can a micromanager get everyone together to talk about tiny details that they may or not be directly involved with, instead of having people focus on the big stuff first.  That is an important point because, as any good micromanager knows…

Priorities Cartoon

4)  There is no such thing as priorities.  EVERYTHING is equally important.  You cannot have perfection if people insist on doing “important” stuff first, or if sales says irresponsible things like “it’s a billion dollar deal, and all I need is a couple of documents – send me whatever you have right now”.  These people clearly have no sense of proportion and are dangerous to the company.  Be strong and steadfast and never forget rule number one.

5)  Words are important, and only have one meaning.  It is a micromanager’s sworn duty to stop any conversation, no matter how seemingly productive, if another person uses a word that isn’t exactly descriptive of what is being discussed, ESPECIALLY if the meaning is “close enough”.  We’ve talked about this here on CE before, but it’s especially important in a business setting.  People who don’t use exactly the right word are heretics who probably care more about results than about process, and must be corrected – publicly if possible.  Job titles, of course, must be defined with utter precision, because if someone confuses a senior assistant with a junior analyst, it is quite possible the world will end*.

So there you have it!  All you have to do is follow these five simple rules, and the world will work precisely as you wish it to while you are at work.  Even if you are not a manager, they are useful, as who can possibly argue against perfection and precision?  No one will, at least not to your face!  And what you don’t know can’t hurt you, right?

And don’t forget that if you like our Facebook page, you will never miss a post… unless you want to or it irritates you or something.

* And no one wants that unless the proper forms are filled, in triplicate.

PS: a true micromanager will be rereading this post looking to see if all the formatting is correct.  Please don’t fail us!

Classically Educated Looks Forward and the Result is… A Coffee* Mug

Garden of Eternla Delights

Here at Classically Educated, we love to look into the past.  Parting the mists of time is not just educational, and it doesn’t just keep humanity from repeating the past’s errors (although, it doesn’t seem like we’re very good at that), but it’s also fun.  We know we definitely enjoyed the series of articles on the Bismarck – and we are always looking for interesting takes on history.

The present, too, is fascinating, as long as it involves travel to new places or experiences with new groups of people who have interesting, thoughtful takes on life – or who simply cross the street very differently from what you and I might be accustomed to.  Romance is also interesting

But we don’t often look into the future all that much, which is kind of ironic considering that Classically Educated is a blog, with contributors from all over the world, most of whom have never spoken, much less met face to face.  Most have never even been in the same country as the rest.

So let’s look forward – specifically, let’s try to guess what will change people’s lives the most.

It has been said that new communications were going to change our lives fundamentally, and it’s indisputable that they have… except not fundamentally.  Having fingertip access to information and entertainment has created changes that range from the way people learn, to the way people date.  But it hasn’t really changed the fundamental way people interact with each other.  We still make friends with the people we have physical contact with, mainly.  We still – despite Google having the answer to everything – ask ourselves why we’re here, and where we’re going.  We go through teenage angst (and read Stepanie Meyer books), fall in love, get married, get jobs, some people get divorced, and then we die.

We could posit that immortality would be a big-and fundamental-change, but I sincerely doubt that it’s the next one coming down the pipeline.

So we’ll look into the one thing that has been – and will probably continue to be the biggest motor to social change since the Industrial Revolution: production methodology.

Wait, what?

Industrial Revolution London

Bear with me.  Factories were the innovation that began the migration of people from the country to the production centers in a major way.  Factories needed workers, the population was growing, and there was really no need for more mouths to feed in most peasant hovels (yes, this is an insensitive oversimplification, but it is still accurate).

Ford Production Line

Then came Henry Ford, and his production line.  While the clear, obvious consequence of this is that distances for the common man suddenly became much shorter in practice, mass production also meant that people could have stuff, lots of stuff, for reasonable prices – and they could have the same stuff as their neighbors.  This actually did change the way people interacted, and we’ve been living in the automobile age ever since.  Computers are a byproduct of this age, but have served to accelerate it and make it more efficient as opposed to shaking the foundations.  Ditto the internet and smartphones – refinements on the social structures of the industrial/automotive age, not really a huge change except in efficiency (even the supposedly doomed music industry is still around, it seems).

Perhaps the single biggest missed opportunity to really change things so far has been space exploration, but the imbecilic insistence on solving Earth’s problems first has scuttled that until private industry can afford to take humanity’s next step (so, despite his electric cars, I find myself rooting for Elon Musk…).  The gentler, kinder world we live in means that the timid rule the public budgets.  Too bad.

So, what’s next?

We believe that the next big change will be atomized production.  Not just decentralized, but atomized.  Yes, we are still some years from the home nano-factory, but it will get here sooner rather than later, though hopefully not as described in Nancy Kress’ story “Nano Comes to Clifford Falls” (you can read the first part of the story here).  The first steps – Print on Demand and 3-D printing are already here, refinement will take things to another level, as it always has.

But back to nano.  Just think about it for a second.  When you can produce anything you want at home (or in a communal nano-factory a few blocks away), limited only by the availability of plans and the cost of materials, factories will disappear.  So will the factory worker…  A lot of literature which talks about the proletariat will be tossed out (or more likely, subjected to obvious revisionism), as that word will cease to have its original meaning, at least as regards to the productive part of the value chain.

I actually believe that this will be better in the long run, but a LOT of governments are going to try to block it, especially those that produce tons of stuff…  And if it isn’t the government, it will be the unions.  Countries will suffer revolutions because of this, but at the end of it, humanity will have taken a huge step forward.

Are you ready for that change?

Classically Educated is.  In fact, we’re so enthusiastic about it (assuming most of us survive the cannibalism while we work out the implications) that we have joined the first wave.  We have created a Classically Educated Mug on Zazzle, and anyone else who loves the site, or just the concept of a classical education can buy it here (all photos of you – or your cat – posing with the mug that you send our way will be included on future posts)!

The Completely Awesome Classically Educated Coffee Mug

*We recommend you fill it with tea, which is the correct beverage for reading the classics…  But this, of course, is a strictly non-commercial exercise done for scientific reasons 😉

 

 

 

Bad Management Fads – A Classically Educated List

down-trend

Our guest blogger today, part of the Classically Educated core team, has decided to remain anonymous, since they suspect their boss reads this blog. But anonymous or not, we think you’ll enjoy it!

dilbert-boss

For those who’ve never been corporate zombies, it might come as a bit of a surprise that not everyone in management fits the stereotypes.  Not every manager is a serious-minded analytical guru, not all are whiz-kids, there are nearly no crooks and Dilbert’s boss, though iconic, doesn’t really represent a significant cross-section.  As a blog that self-describes as “eclectic”, we couldn’t let the opportunity of having a look at this, especially as many of us still spend a significant portion of our waking lives at work.

Most managers are just regular people who do regular things.  They have the same feelings that you or I do, have the same questions (What is the meaning of life? Will I ever be successful? What should I have for lunch?) and, like us, they are dissatisfied with the standard answer, 42.  They get home and watch something mind-numbing on TV, and the last time most of them read anything that might be considered classic literature is either in college or in high school, depending on what they minored in.

They are, essentially, Jane and Joe Shmoe with a bit more money and a BMW, with the big difference that they are under pressure to do better than their competition, a company that is staffed by people with exactly the same qualifications and exactly the same IQ.  That other company will be trying to do exactly the same things in mostly the same ways.  This means that most managers are desperate to fins something to set them apart – but they, like you or I, secretly believe  they aren’t up to the task, and also know that they stopped maturing at some point near their fifteenth birthday, just like everyone else.

Many people attain a sense of security by being part of a group, and managers are no different, which means that, like 1980’s hairdos, which seemed like a safe choice at the time but have since forced you to pretend that “I didn’t take any pictures during that whole decade”, management fads that everyone is doing are adopted by everyone else, in a sort of self-creational cycle that the best business writers are at a loss to explain (conspiracy theories are welcome in the comments).

There are many articles that talk about bad management fads, and this is another one, but we are funnier, snarkier, and have a fad in the #1 spot that we haven’t seen elsewhere!

So, without further ado, I give you the five dumbest management fads that the crew at Classically Educated have observed firsthand:

leadership_lemmings1

#5.  Consensus Management. This is one that sounds great on paper, especially to millennials who have decided to democratize everything, from music to internet content (said the blogger).  They feel entitled to be a part of every decision and that we should all get along, yay!

Verdict: Consensus is a bunch of people who think “A” getting together in a ten-hour meeting to compromise on “B”.

Quality Control... Fail

#4.  Use of Quality and Production Tools in Commercial Areas. Raise your hand if your company has forced you to qualify as a green or black belt, or applied Kanbans to your processes, or used some other production-sector quality tool to make your working life more organized.  Hmm, thought so.  Now raise your hand if you work in marketing, sales, Human Resources or any other area of the company in which the capacity to think on your feet and deal with situations that never arose before and will likely never arise again are more important than trying to bash a bunch of round pegs into square holes.  Sad, isn’t it?

Verdict:  Who the hell promoted all those engineers and accountants into top management positions, anyway?

moth.flame

#3.  Shiny! This is perhaps the fad that most clearly shows the connection between management and normal human feelings such as insecurity, especially in the internet age.  Here’s the deal: a very high-level manager reads an article that states that social interactive image and sound conflugialization is beginning to take off, and that there are already thousands of happy users sharing their conflugialistic infotermics, and that it’s the greatest thing since Facebook Ads.  Then they read the fateful sentence: “XXXXX (being a company in their industry) has already signed on as a beta test partner”.  The manager immediately assigns a slightly lower-level person (say an EVP) to the task of implementing the thing, and gravity ruins the lives of a bunch of middle managers for months.  The justification: “We can’t fall behind XXXXX.”

Verdict:  Did anyone bother to ask what the ROI on your Facebook Ads is?

 

#2. Cross-Functional Teams.  Cross-functional teams are another one of those that sound good on paper: let’s have all the stake-holding departments involved in the productive process, that way ensuring that nothing gets overlooked.  We’ll save a ton of time in not having mistakes.  The problem?  Mistakes happen anyway, and you basically have people from sales sitting in on long arguments between the guy from the factory and the guy from finance regarding how to shave a cent off procurement costs by importing gear oil from Myanmar instead of Paraguay.

Verdict:  The ancients once said something about “too many cooks”, and it still holds true.  Some of those ancients would have been excellent CEOs, but they’d if they’d been willing to bathe more often.

Random Dude wearing a Power Tie

#1.  Power Ties.  This one is embarrassing to even write about.  I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be subjected to it – fortunately, it died off about a year before I entered the workforce, but my coworkers were so scarred by it that it dominated lunchtime for ages.  Essentially, Power Ties were red ties, which, some behavioral psychologist had decided projected power, which gave you a psychological advantage over the people you were meeting with.  Many organizations mandated them for meetings with clients, and especially with C-Level managers visiting from headquarters.

Verdict:  He’s a millionaire C-level manager in a huge corporation.  He’s reached his position by backstabbing thick-hided insensibility.  He’s fought in four wars, and has the skulls of the enemy soldiers (and one insubordinate corporal) that he killed mounted in his trophy room.  He specifically requested that you serve him grilled interns for lunch.  But show him a red tie and he’ll cower, blubbering, into the nearest corner.  Let me know how that works out.

 

Anyway, feel free to add any you might like – that’s what the comments are for, after all!

 

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