Underestimating the Value of Good Managers
The value of a manager is often underrated. New philosophies have emerged over the years that often attribute a company’s success to a handful of work superstars and technology geniuses, and would relegate the role of management to a non-value-add and even an unnecessary burden!
Steve Jobs, for example, was quoted in a 1985 interview saying the “greatest people are self-managing, they don’t need to be managed”. (…) We, [once], went and hired a bunch of professional managers, it did not work at all. Much of them were a bunch of bozos.”
Elon Musk was also heard expressing similar frustrations regarding managers in a letter to all his employees in late 2017: “There are two schools of thought about how information should flow. By far the most common way is chain of command, which means that you always flow communication through your manager. The problem with this approach is that, while it enhances the power of the manager, it fails to serve the company.”
In an effort to innovate, progressive companies often informally adopted or drew inspiration from the “lattice organization”. W.L. Gore defined this as any system that lacks assigned authority, and instead relies on direct person-to-person communication and individual commitments. Companies such as Pivotal Labs, Zappos, and W.L. Gore itself, claim to work under such management models.
Making Better Managers
Following this line of thought, Google in 2002 decided to get rid of all middle management.
It did not fare well.
In an attempt to learn from the setback, Google put together a task force and conducted experiments to, as scientifically as they could, determine what distinguished high vs. average and poor performing teams and projects. Google continued these in-depth people research studies under different names, with Project Oxygen and Project Aristotle being the most influential.
Invariably, they found that the role of a manager is critical to the success of a project or team. Their analysis further identified the traits and behaviors that great managers display that contribute to a project's success.
At BetterManager, we coach managers using a model derived from these Google studies, additional principles developed at the Harvard Business School and Gallup, and of course our own experience, research, and analysis from successfully coaching many hundreds of managers.
April 22, 2018