• Erwan Hernot

Management Becomes Magic Thinking!

5 reasons to NOT believe…

We tend to think on a basic level: “Do this and that particular event will happen”. We –knowingly, I suspect – neglect the multiple variables that mess up the outcome. Instead of giving you five ways to management success, let me give you some reasons to doubt any advice coming from the web!

…To brilliant formulas that prove to be wrong!

One title struck me the other day: “Fire all managers!” I have already stated a point of view on that subject or pointed on articles “In praise of managers”. “Fire all managers” doesn’t mean anything or at least, is not complete. Of course, all managers should have a leadership dimension. It would be better. But we have to keep in mind the environment in which most of the companies are. And this context doesn’t allow leaders to flourish ! How can you be a leader when an ERP asks for everything you do and tells you in which way doing it? Let me, then, rephrase the formula: “Change totally the culture of most of the world’s companies by suppressing the command-and-control way of managing and you can suppress managers”. It won’t happen overnight. And leaders instead of managers is just a dream. That’s the beginning of the magic…

So easy to understand, that it is misleading

Magic starts with formulas. In management, formulas are very often easy to understand. They strike a chord in most managers or HR persons and hence, ignite an interest for further reading. Good then, but please, my fellow consultants, be honest on the topic you talk about and play with all the cards! Give the full context, be humble in the advices and the conclusions. Let’s take another example: “Engage your staff is the key to performance”. Right. Having said that, how do you engage them? If you link engagement to motivation, you have 3 different theories families on motivation: from the early ideas on work organization (FW Taylor) to Content theories (Maslow is the best known of them, add also: Alderfer, Herzberg and Mc Clelland) to Process theories (Vroom and Porter and Lawler, Adams, Locke, Heider and Kelley). Almost each of these authors has his own theory… Wisely then, you can consider that no one excludes the others. Therefore, “Engage your staff” is far from done!

Top tips don’t work in all cultures

We tend to assume that Harvard Business Review (or Stanford, etc.) gives the world management tempo. Thus, they establish relevant ideas for “world class leaders”. True, corporate thinking tends to melt into the same logic but from business speaking to actual management practices, there is a long way. If you want to convince yourself, just train people from various culture and you will see!

At the end, by these mental short cuts, the beauty of formulas and the desire to attract and please, we make management magic thinking. And magic thinking is not far from wishful thinking, ie another word for impotency to change …

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