Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We don't need no middle management

I just read one of the most interesting and truthful articles ever. It proofes what I was thinking since a long time, that big companies suffer because of their middle management.
Joe Wilcox was wrinting abot Microsoft and why there is no innovation;

Based on communications with current and former employees, Microsoft's midriff problem is one of middling middle management. The number of middle mangers swelled over the last decade, and they also are the employees making key management decisions, which includes who gets laid off or fired and where the remaining people work.

There are two ways to structure a company: One is the old traditional way with a vertical hierarchy. That worked for thousand of years from Egypt to the Roman Empire and British one as well. The problem with vertical structures is the lack of horizontal levels. But that's where actually the work is done.

Lets have a look on a small company, like a coffee shop. You have some baristas, they are good in Coffee making and foam decoration. You have ONE shop manager, who is doing the administration work. Others are cleaners, waitresses, delivery boys. They all report to one manager. Scale it up to 3 coffee shops. Now the three supervisors will report to a new super-supervisor, who isnt in a coffeeshop anymore. . Scale it to 200 coffee shops and there will be more and more super-super-super-supervisors.
The question is: Why they have to report at all: Why they can't just send the numbers of profit and the orders of supply, and another department is just analyzing?
Reports are a dangerous virus, that has affected nearly every company, and they are usually useless. Nobody is reading that shit unless he or she is a middle-manager, whos only duty is to read reports and create new reports.

When Joe asked former Microsoft employees about the last layoffs, he got thsi answer:

Out of a starting staff of nearly 20, four remained, all managers. I'm not sure what they manage.

That's the point: Middle-Managers spend most of the time to keep their overpaid job. They lick asses to the superiors and kick asses of their employees. Sorry for the rude words, but that's how it works.

If you have a look on Sharepoint or Groove, than you will see that actually this so called collaboration software reflects the Microsoft dilemma. Instead of easy sharing it's actually more about structure and permissions. And because companies are used to Microsoft, they follow their way.

The question is: If Sharepoint and Groove are great tools to increase collaboraton with the goal of doing better, be more efficienct and innovative, why is Microsoft laying off people and the opposite of innovative? Because their products suck.

Look at Google on the other side: 20 percent time for own projects, leaner, sometime flat structure, less bureaucracy. Thats how you get ideas and new markets.

If you are a business in South-East-Asia and you want to improve the way your company works, let me know. My company and me can help you.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Great article Thomas, particularly the bit about reports. In 2007 I joined a 4* hotel as Director of Sales & Marketing, & spent a few days studying how the sales team work. One thing I noticed was that every day at 5.30 they gave me a daily activity report, which on average took them half an hour or so to prepare. Thats 15 hours per week per salesperson, across a team of 6, ie 90 man hours per week. And that doesn't include their weekly/monthly reports. 90 hours when they should have been on the phones or out on sales visits.

So I stopped the reports. Because provided the metrics - occupancy, average rate etc - are above target, who really cares what the sales staff do all day? The figures indicated that they were doing a good job, so why bother with a report?

Such reports are an arse-covering exercise that managers can interpret (or misinterpret) as & when it suits them, or use to defend themselves when the figures start to drop.

As for middle management, don't get me started...