We can think of the relationship between managers and the production process as lying across a spectrum.
At one extreme, there are bosses who try to know everything - for example, the early factory owners who invented the processes they controlled and needed only unskilled labour and minimal administration by others, or Taylorite scientific managers. Among today’s prominent bosses, perhaps Jamie Dimon comes close to this extreme.
At the other extreme there is the management described by Robert Protherough and John Pick:
Maintaining a distance from that which is being managed is a key component of the modern managerial process. The achievement of modern managerial goals generally involves a high degree of mental abstraction, but little direct contact with the organization’s workers, with the production of its goods or services, or with its customers and users. (Managing Britannia p 32)(...)
And there is something to be said for this. No-one wants a control freak breathing down their neck - it’s just demotivating. And when knowledge of complex organizations is bounded, it’s entirely sensible for bosses to delegate (...)
This, though, raises the question. If remote control management doesn’t directly** monitor its workforce, what function does it serve?
Old-fashioned scientific management had an obvious rationale. It could claim to move firms closer to the production possibility frontier and so increase efficiency - a claim consistent with simple exploitation of workers.
But remote control management doesn’t bother with the production process. Yes, it’s obsessed with brand-building. But for the economy as a whole, this is a zero-sum game; Coca-Cola’s brand is a liability for Pepsi. All that obsession with strategy and growth has not led to any observable rise in aggregate trend economic growth since the heyday of more hands-on management. And studies of firm growth find that the process is largely random, suggesting that a lot of managerial effort to pursue growth is wasted.
Which raises a possibility. Could it be that remote control managers function much as the gods did in ancient times. They get blame when things go wrong and praise when they go right, but in fact have no power at all, except that which ignorant people impute to them? They are, technically, redundant and are sustained in their lucrative positions only by superstition and ideology.
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 02:44