Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Give Me Some Perspective

There have been a lot of issues in my office recently.  These issues mirror the past offices that I have worked in.  The problems appear to be surmountable but nothing is being done to deal with them.  Since I see myself as a problem solving sort of individual, this type of thing tends to drive me nuts.  I believe that it all comes down to a certain type of human behavior pattern that I have seen repeated many times before.  

I want to know if others have observed the same patterns and if it is just me, the particular types of the jobs that I have had, or if this is a global phenomenon involving most of western culture.  So please leave me a comment so that I can gauge my level of sanity (or insanity). 

In the past three jobs that I have had spanning the last 25 years I have seen management's intransigence regarding any decision that changes the operation of the office that they are in charge of.  

While the average person can write this off to 'stupid' managers, or 'spineless' leaders, I believe that this is an over simplification. Managers tend to believe that they are doing the right thing.  It goes against human nature to make bad decisions that would adversely affect you.  So the managers 'believe' that they are making good decisions or more importantly they choose NOT to make a decision.  

What I have been theorizing is that managers are not being trained in the ways of the modern work space.  Management style tends to be passed down from one manager to the next.  You mirror what you are trained to do by your superior.  Managers believe that what worked in the past will work in the future.  In the past, the entire concept of management has been focused on the management of people as a resource.  

What I see as the primary failing of the past 20 years is the failure of management to focus on the office/business process as well.  Repeatedly, I have seen management throw people at a problem to try and solve it, instead of looking at what created the problem in the first place.  

The allegory is:  Putting more and more people's fingers in a leaking damn instead of trying to fix the damn.  The managers see problems as a matter of what they can do with the people that they supervise and not critically looking at the issue of how and why they are trying to hold back the water (the process).  

Critical process thinking is a skill that is not passed down from manager to manager. People management is inherent and easier to grasp.  As office processes get more and more complex (relational databases, data collection, advanced Outlook scheduling, spreadsheet forecasting) management falls farther and farther behind and hence, makes the functioning of the office more and more difficult for the workers that they supervise. The understanding of the advanced processes are usually delegated to underlings, who understand them, but have no authority to apply them to the overall office process. 

I recall being taught these concepts in college business courses back in the late 1980 at Oregon State University.  However, I have the suspicion that many managers have not had proper management training in critical problem solving and have been promoted to their jobs based on what current management sees as their adequate people skills. 

So my question is this.  Is this something that others have seen in their various workplaces?  Do most managers not understand the actual processes that they supervise?

(For more musings on my journey through bad-management land see "The Allegory" and "Educating Mr. Rubin".)