17 April 2007

Management and reorganization

Can there be any doubt that the most effective thing we could possibly do to improve workplace productivity in this country would be to make reorganization punishable by death?

In the course of my working life I've been through quite a few reorganizations. Invariably they were disruptive and confusing, wasted time and energy, and brought no discernable benefits (except in one case where a reorganization abolished a completely ludicrous administrative structure created by the previous reorganization).

Why do managers reorganize? It may be that this is like asking why grass grows or why molluscs cling to rocks. There is no "why" -- these organisms simply do those things because those are the things that they do. It is sometimes said that a new high-level manager will often reorganize the unit he controls as a way of "making his mark" on it. For obvious reasons, I call this the "dog and fire hydrant" theory of reorganization. It could be true; I've noticed that in places where there is a high rate of turnover at the top, there is also a higher frequency of reorganizations. It can get tiresome being in the role of the fire hydrant, though.

And that's the unfortunate part. In my experience, most working people genuinely want to do their jobs well. But instead of being left in peace to get on with it, they are constantly pestered with reorganizations and "team-building" activities and "motivation" schemes and whatever other fads happen to be in vogue with management consultants and publications at any given time. The sole benefit of most such impositions is that they give the staff something to make fun of among themselves.

The management that manages least, manages best.


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