Thursday, 3 July 2014

On Modern Management.

Two people sat near to me on the train today, a woman probably in her mid 40’s and a man around ten years younger. They had the corporate look about them in their dress, manner and hairstyle. Their very aura said ‘corporate.’ The man took out some printed sheets and a notebook, and then proceeded to read, make notes and re-annotate some that were already there. From the few words I could see, I gathered they’d been on a management training course. The words were all about how to steer clients and staff into doing things Our Way.

Management training is an industry in itself these days, but I recall that in my early working years there seemed to be no such thing as a management training course. Managers were born into the role by virtue of natural aptitude, and such training as they received came from the managers they assisted during the course of climbing the career ladder. During the time I spent training to be a naval officer there were no classes in management. Every cadet in the college had already demonstrated his ability to lead others during the three-day-long aptitude tests. Their ability to do that was taken as read.

So why have they become so ubiquitous? Is it simply that the modern world has a mania for formal training? Is it that modern culture produces fewer people with natural management aptitude? Is it that the corporate world is less selective in its choice of personnel, believing that anybody can be trained to be a manager? Is it to provide work for that new breed of animal, the management training company?

More to the point, are modern managers better than they used to be? In my experience over the past ten or twenty years, certainly not. Are modern managers more likely to play things by the book, rather than by ear as earlier managers did? Probably. Does that make them less flexible? It would appear likely. Are we getting close to the point where management functions will be performed by robots? Well, who can say?

I remember seeing a slogan on the wall of a training agency classroom once. It wasn’t a management training agency, but one which supposedly specialised in training the unemployed to be more employable:

If all else fails, try management

The manager had it taken down.

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