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Where waste is rife but apparently acceptable

This blog entry may not sit easy with some readers but will have others nodding their heads in sad agreement. In the current recessional climate, many large organisations are bending over backwards to divest themselves of their staff. Loyal, hardworking and smart people are being laid off in their scores and face an uncertain and uncomfortable future. At the same time, those left behind appear to demonstrate that poor management and general incompetence is normal and acceptable behaviour, and continue to be rewarded for it. It seems that the Peter Principle is now a key criteria for promotion. Organisations that have become accustomed to working with bulging levels of untrained and unqualified middle management are now burdened with an unprecedented amount of waste which they appear to be unable to prevent. In most cases, the inability to deal with this waste is because it goes unrecognised and unnoticed, except in the worst cases where it is actually ignored. Some of the problems are due to the fact that many managers now act purely as conduits. Their sole function in life is to delegate everything down the chain until it reaches the lowest level at which point everything flows back up the chain to the original source. Additional requests for information or action then repeat the journey until the next set of demands appears. At no stage in the process is value added. In fact the reverse is more likely to be true as “Chinese Whispers” take effect. Good managers lead by example. They get their hands dirty, not to the point of micro-management, but they recognise that there are some tasks they can or should undertake themselves without having to disrupt their staff. Constant delegation without thought actually puts staff into difficult positions. I’ve heard of organisations delegating activities associated with pay-cuts and layoffs to junior members of staff who do not have the appropriate levels of authority or access to deal with such information. In other situations, procurement departments are circumvented at management request to expedite purchasing activities. Again, it is often non-managerial staff who are put in the firing line for failing to adhere to policy and process. Management by pure delegation is often associated with management by email. Staff are given insufficient detail, information and time to deal with orders handed down by vague and curt emails. The premise is that if you are at the bottom of the chain you can clearly stop everything to deal with the most recent urgent demand. In big organisations, it’s all too easy for poor managers to hide behind each other. This is unacceptable waste, and managers found to be lacking should be reminded that they have to add value to the organisation just like everyone else. A failure to deal with this will ultimately cause catastrophic failure in the organisation, as managers who don’t “do“ suddenly find that there is no-one left to ”do“ for them. And the people who know how to ”do“, have long since left the building.
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