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How to Stop Managing & Be Productive Instead

Toddlers, teens or adults?

We’ve already said WHY Management Is a Bad Idea. Here we identify HOW to stop managing so you and everyone else is more productive.

The art of leadership is to know how few times the leader should actually make the decision.

Managers make decisions. Leaders get others to do it as often as they can because none of us is as smart as all of us.

We could virtually do away with managers if they would just lead instead. I believe we could replace at least every five managers with one leader, and possibly ten to one in many businesses. 15 of the top 20 reasons people leave their job involves middle managers. Think how much more profitable (and fun) it would be to eliminate middle management all together.

Modern management is traced back to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Scientific Management Principle from 1903 and 1911, that assumes employees are a) stupid and b) lazy, and therefore we need smart and motivated people to manage the stupid and lazy ones. In a good business you don’t need managers because the leader doesn’t believe people are stupid and lazy.

Leaders get out of the way. Here’s how to move from managing to leading. As you are having a conversation with a Stakeholder, ask yourself these questions, which move from Problem through Question to Solution:

Chasing Three Years Olds Around the Store – Did I have to come find out they had a PROBLEM? That’s the lowest level of management – running around finding out other people’s problems. If you do that, you have a bunch of toddlers working for you, and you’re the one who made them that way by chasing them around. Stop it.

Managing Eight Year Olds – Did they come find me with a PROBLEM? Not much better. Children come whining to their parents that Johnny hit them. You’ve trained them to do it. Stop it.

Managing 13 Year Olds – Did I have to figure out the right QUESTION? Asking the right question is 90% of getting the right answer. Anybody can identify problems, but if they aren’t asking the right questions to fix them, they aren’t adding much value. If you have to form the right questions, you’re not leading, you’re managing. Stop it and get others to form the questions.

Manager High Schoolers – Did they bring me the right QUESTION with no solution? You’ve taught others to not think; you’re the only one bright enough to solve things. Require that they come up with solutions.

Managing College Kids – Did they bring some possible SOLUTIONS for me to pick from? We’re getting there, but still you’ve taught them to not take risks and actually solve things. They’re afraid to fix things because you’ve taught them only you can do it, because you’re more experienced and less likely to do something stupid. You forget that you had to make mistakes. If you are ever going to have someone else in your business that can lighten the load, they need to take risks and make mistakes, too. Stop being a control freak and teach others to lead by letting them solve problems WITHOUT YOU.

Managing Adults – Did they bring me a report on how they SOLVED something? Guess what, you’re a leader. You can now focus on the business of building a great business instead of creating stupid and lazy people by all your managing.

Moving From Manager to Leader
You should be asking these questions every time you talk to someone, with the objective of getting to “Managing Adults” as quickly as possible (might take a year or more, depending on how long you’ve been chasing the toddlers).

If you want to run a day care center, it’s your option. People aren’t stupid and lazy and they aren’t children. You make them that way by managing them. Stop it. And if some of them decide to not grow up, kick them out of the house and get others who will be adults. You’ll all have a lot more fun, and make a lot more money – with no managers.

You should lead no matter what the size of your business.

Industrialists Are Not Capitalists

but they’re all over the place, even today.

People love to throw stones at Capitalists, but it’s the Industrialists who are the problem. And they are a very different animal. I’m a fire-breathing Capitalist, and I don’t relate to these guys. Let’s throw stones in the right direction.

I’ve been working on and blogging about my next book on the Industrial Age for 18 months. The production area of the modern company has changed radically, having left the Industrial Age forty+ years ago. It’s full of clean suits and nano-technology. But the front office is still dragging its knuckles through practices developed in the 1800s for the Industrial Age.

Dilbert still reigns in the front office. And it’s largely because old-fashioned Industrialists are still in charge of the businesses.

Following is a chart from one of the chapters in the upcoming book showing the stark difference between true Capitalists, who are regularly doing great stuff, and Industrialists, who are more often up to no good. I can only find one thing they do in common (take risks), and even that is driven by entirely different motivations.

Do you work for the Industrialist on the left, or the Capitalist on the right?

If you want to work with the guy on the right, but you’re working for one on the left, get moving. Start aggressively looking for the company on the right, because they’re looking just as hard for you. They’re out there – don’t settle for less!

Management is a Bad Idea.

Who decides what?

In the late 1990s I was courted for 11 months to join someone else’s business. The biggest red flag was that the CEO was a Harvard MBA in his early 60s. Not much could make me more cautious than working for someone with that kind of ivory tower pedigree..

I said no a number of times. My biggest concern was how he, and by extension the company he had built, would make decisions. Would they let those most affected be involved in decision-making, or would they make top-down decisions like other companies stuck in bankrupt Industrial Age thinking?

I finally said if he spent a few million to build a new operations center, and committed to investing $500k or so each year each year that the company grew, that I would join the company. To my surprise he committed the first few million to the ops center, so I joined up.

We took the company from $8.5 million to $13 million the first year, but when it came time to put just $500k more in to support the next year’s growth, the CEO decided not to do it. Later that year when I asked for workstations and employees to support more growth, he emailed me and said I hadn’t put it in the capital expenditure forecast 10 months earlier – request denied. The golden handcuffs clouded me into staying for almost three more years, but two years after I left, the company went bankrupt and was sold in a fire sale.

What happened? Exactly what I had feared up front – the people closest to the ground were not involved in the decision-making process and had to implement decisions in which they had no say. Management knew best and didn’t need any help making decisions. Classic, but broken management practices.

Management is a Bankrupt Industrial Age Idea
“Management” as a function wasn’t common before 1900. Frederick W. Taylor (1911) popularized the separation of decision-making from the worker, who he felt didn’t have the smarts to be involved in decisions. He emphasized having Management make decisions that workers then simply carried out. My Harvard MBA CEO carried that practice right through to bankruptcy.

None of us is as smart as all of us.
In the real world, none of us is as smart as all of us. If you push through 112 years of bad management practice, you find that people who are most affected by a decision are most likely to have the best input. This should be a major leadership principle followed by all business owners. It doesn’t mean everyone just makes decisions by themselves, any more than having management make it by themselves. It means the owner/implementer of a decision should have the most say.

I Got Over-ruled
We’re designing the messaging and cool stuff that goes on the walls of our new Business Transformation Center. I had specific ideas of what I thought should go on the walls. When the designer came, the other staff there that day had wildly divergent ideas, and they would live with the results every bit as much as me, in some ways more. My ideas aren’t going to be implemented, but I got a few things that I wanted, too. The Chief Results Officer will make the decision.

What do you Believe?
We don’t believe in management and workers. We believe in the Wisdom of Crowds, which says that in a team there is a better answer than any one expert can give on their own. We don’t believe in consensus, either. A giraffe is a horse designed by consensus – close, but no cigar.

Make More Money – Trust Others to Make Great Decisions
Those with the most at risk get the most say. Even if someone doesn’t own stock in the business, they should own their work and their results. In MANY cases the business owner(s) has less at risk than those who will have to carry out the decision. And they will make more money if they let others who are closer to the ground make the decision.

Leadership 101
1) Know you don’t know everything – none of us is as smart as all of us.
2) Respect the input of others
3) Whoever has to live most with the decision should have the most input.
4) There is still a Chief for each decision, but many times it should NOT be the Chief Exec. Officer. Everyone in our business has the title “Chief” of something, and the decisions get made by the Chief closest to the ground and most affected by the decision.
5) All of us should get input, aggregate information, and deeply respect the input of those most likely to have to carry out the decision.

The art of leadership is to know how few times the leader should actually make the decision.

It’s a great way to avoid bankruptcy.

 

Employees are Always a Bad Idea.

Children or Adults

This Industrial Age concept was never a good idea for companies, and was worse for the “employees”. Today, companies that move forward without employees will thrive. Those that don’t will fall behind.

The Industrial Age gave us cool toys and a cushy life, but it also came with some Business Diseases. One of the most rabid of the Business Diseases is the concept of an employee, which is a very new idea in the history of man, and one that needs to go away.

When machines took over most production, they couldn’t run themselves, and so the Industrial Age re-created people in the image of machines in order to run them.

“Employees are “Silent”
Over time companies made it clear they only wanted the productive part of the person to show up. They required people to leave the human being (the messy part) at home. As a result, the generation which entered the work force at the very peak of the Industrial Age (1945-1960-ish) was given the worst generational label ever – The Silent Generation. If you had a “Silent” as a parent, you learned to live life the way they had been taught – “Be loyal to the company. Do what you’re told. Show up early, leave late. Shut up, sit down, don’t make waves, live invisibly, go out quietly. The company will take care of you.”

Employees are Children
This view of work (and life) turned adults back into children. You were taught that the most mature person was one who obediently took orders, did what they were told, didn’t question authority, was blindly loyal to those in charge, and lived passively as others directed their lives. Pretty much what we want a four year old to do.

In order to keep the children from ruining the house, and to make them extensions of machines, the Industrial Age boxed people in with extremely clear and narrow limitations on what they could do, the hours in which they could do them, and endless limitations on being human and “adult” at work. It stripped them of their need to think, create and solve because the machine didn’t need them to think, create and solve. It just needed them to do.

Employees Are a Disease, not a Cure
We reject the business culture of the Industrial Age as a bad idea that needs to be corrected. Employees are one of those Business Diseases that should be eradicated. Because of the Industrial Age, the word “employee” has become synonymous with “child”. We can’t even use the word anymore. We don’t want to hire children who need to be told what to do and managed closely so they don’t run into the street.

Employees are Replaced by Stakeholders
So we don’t hire employees, but have replaced them with Stakeholders. Our Stakeholders are sold out to living well by doing good, and are not employees who punch clocks. Stakeholders are first and foremost adults who can think, take initiative and make decisions, carry responsibility, take ownership, be creative and solve problems.

Stakeholders are Adults
Our Stakeholders are all adults. “Employee” is a four-letter word for us. Adults don’t need someone to keep them from running into the streets or ruining the carpets. Adults ask questions. They don’t live passively but are self-directed, creative, and solve problems. They don’t shut up; they make waves, they are highly visible and they don’t expect the company or other adults to take care of them. Adults own stuff, and they own their work as a natural part of being an adult. And the whole messy person comes to work, not just the extension of the machine.

Stakeholders Require Leadership, not Adult Supervision
If you hire Stakeholders (adults) instead of employees (children), it changes the way you direct people. We don’t have office hours, vacation time or personal days. We’re not interested in whose car was in the parking lot first or who left last. We believe office politics is a waste of time, so no one will ever be promoted.

Stakeholders Focus on Work, not Promotion to the Next Title
Every adult who works with us (over 20 full and part-time and growing) has a title that includes the word Chief; Chief Results Officer, Chief Connecting Officer, Chief Transformation Officer, Chief Operations Officer, Chief Development Officer, Chief of MIH (Making it Happen).

We don’t have supervisors or managers or directors or VPs – just Chiefs. None of us will ever need to be promoted, we’re already all at the top. We’ll just grow into more responsibilities as we become better at things. As we do them, they will be recognized and somebody might change our title (there is no centralized title giver).

Stakeholders Create Better Teams
We believe in working together as Committed Community (adults live in community) to get results for each other and for other business owners. Every full-time Stakeholder will take part in profit-sharing. Why wouldn’t they? They’re all adults who own their work, they should own profits from their work as well. That’s what adults do.

Stakeholders are Self-Motivated
Although we lease 1,500sf of office space for training and rent other spaces around the city, none of us have an office there – we all work from our homes and places like breakfast joints and coffee shops. If it helps somebody to get things done better, we’ll get them an office.

Stakeholders Make You and Themselves More Money
Our business grew 61% in 2010, 41% in 2011, 75% in 2012 and projected at 50% in 2013. Why? Because every Stakeholder is an adult, taking responsibility, creating, problem solving, making it happen, and taking ownership of whatever needs to be done to bring our clients the best experience and the most tangible results possible. And everyone is a lot happier because they all work with adults who pull their own weight.

Employees are a bad idea. Stakeholders rock.

Planning won’t even get you a good plan, let alone success.

Stop thinking. Get moving.

Planning does not create success or even the best plan. It also doesn’t create action. Most planning just creates paper, spreadsheets, complexity, doubt, paralysis, and dream-dampening. There are two things that create a far better plan than planning itself.

If you believe that meticulous and detailed planning of every possible contingency is the best way to create success you won’t like this post. To make matters worse, I’m probably going to accuse you of living in a dream world.

How many SUCCESSFUL businesses were started from a highly developed business plan? Next to none. And of the very, very few I’ve found that were started from a business plan, when asked how that worked out for them, most laughed but none said that reality had followed their excel spreadsheet plan.

Yet we keep slavishly promoting an antique practice that has almost never done anything for anyone except get someone an “A” in an MBA class on how to build a business plan. Oh, and it will get you into debt, because banks are still requiring business plans so they have a teddy bear to hold while they give you money. None of those work out either, but most banks haven’t figured out there is a much better way to see if someone is going to be successful.

This isn’t a blog on the attributes of success (maybe I’ll do that one next week), but creating a 30-page business plan isn’t one of them. To the contrary, the simpler the initial plan, the better, because it’s going to change anyway.

I advocate a 2-Page Strategic Plan (never do another classic Business Plan unless you have an antique bank asking for one). A simple 2-page Strategic Plan is set up to change, adapt, and be clarified every one to three months – you know, sort of like life.

It shouldn’t take more than a few hours to do it because, again, like life, it’s going to change very quickly. The only part that is likely to not change is the objective – what do we want to see as a result? The rest of it is up for grabs – anything that gets us to that result will be added and anything that isn’t will be removed.

Once you’ve got a simple plan, the two keys to making it into a great plan are:

  1. Commitment (to the objective, not a plan)
  2. Movement (in a purposeful directions toward the objective, not “activity” based on a plan)

It is NEVER how good your plan is that creates success, but how committed you are to the bad plan you’ve got and how willing you are to get moving on it NOW. As you move with absolute commitment in a clear direction toward the objective – that commitment and that movement will work together to make your so-so plan into a world class one.

Commitment and movement create success, not a tortured 30-page document. And a simple 2-page plan will become brilliant over time if there is enough commitment to the objective and enough movement to inform you what to keep doing and what to keep changing.

Stop thinking, get a clear objective and get moving with abandoned commitment toward that goal. Use the movement to make the plan better all the time. You’ll make more money in less time by committed movement than you will by sitting around trying to figure out what might go wrong.