Who Manages The Manager?

This is the next installment of the series considering the secular religion of Management-ism.

Prior installments:


How We 'Managed' To Screw It Up,
Getting Off The Grid
Off The Grid
Abstractions
Going Organic
Interview With A Management-ist
eXtreme tAylorism
Changed By It
Enablers

Who manages the managers? A piece in the current New Yorker talks about the Tragedy of the Anti-commons. We are all familiar with the tragedy of the commons, where a free good gets destroyed because it's in every individual user's short term interest to consume more than a sustainable fair share. But I'd not considered the converse, where the ownership of a property necessary for collective work is split up into so many independent shares that cooperation becomes impossible. The common lies unproductively fallow because every owner wants too much in return for cooperation.

Sound familiar?

It sure does to me!

Each individual holds out for more than his fair share as a precondition for participating. Paying off everyone at the level they desire costs more than the perceived value, so the value lies untapped.

Each tragedy is tragic only because we cope so poorly with it. Viewed as a problem to be solved, which is the standard management-ist frame of reference, we engage in no more or less than a game without end, without resolution, which is in practice, in fact, tragic.

But these are not tragedies unless engaged in as if they were problems to be solved. The management-ist cannot seem to escape from his tenacious problem solving mindset, an act which all by itself could open up possibilities and create choices. Who manages the managers?

Tenacious belief or choice manages them. In fact, they (we) often fail to calculate anything more than the cost of doing business, neglecting the much more useful value of doing or having done business. And the value lost by not doing it.

What do we want? This or that? This is never the whole choice, and neither is that.

The trick is to find choices beyond this and that. This or that constitute an illusion of choice, since choosing either yields the same unwanted result. If you're damned if you do AND damned if you don't, it doesn't matter which option you choose. Either one will result in tragedy.

Here's the cue for any dedicated management-ist to roll his eyes. If you are a skilled problem-solver, you are at a disadvantage. Go ahead, solve the tragedy of the commons --- or the tragedy of the anti-commons. Just try! Neither are nails looking for a hammer. I'll bet you'll direct someone to hammer away anyway.

I recently interviewed a CFO about a soured project. He'd reassigned the Project Manager, who had been unable to get the leaden effort airborne. He was looking for a replacement PM to get the effort back on track. Someone, he hoped, with experience with the technology. Someone who would (at last!) hold the participants accountable. I commented that a) the project was not a train and there were never any tracks, b) I'd never seen a project like this fail because of the technology, and c) holding people accountable for what they cannot do doesn't improve anything.

What would I do? I'd want to talk with everyone involved to hear the story from their perspective. I'd want to understand why a group of people who have the innate ability to work well together managed to not work well together in this instance. Then, working together, I'd want to understand what could be responsibly promised and actually delivered. No hammer. No nails. Glue. Patience.

Well, you know, if I was to do that, the project might not make its target date and the CFO would have to go back to the board and ask for more money. Yup. If the project doesn't do that, it for certain won't make it's date and you might choose to go back to the board and tell them that you've decided to cancel the effort. Hummm. Damned whatever you do. Anti-commons!

I think he decided to hire a hammer.

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