Month: April 2009

Not what, how

I’m reminded time and time again that the problem is not what you are managing it is how you are managing. It doesn’t matter if you add projects, communications, services, risks, etc, etc, etc to the list of things you are managing. All you are doing is increasing the amount of activity that requires a manager – or, in the worst case, increasing the amount of management activity proportional to other activities. You need to change how you manage!

Management is (and should be) boring!

Management is boring!  It, in fact, should be boring.  Not only that – you know something is ‘managed’ when managing it becomes boring.  But the problem is that we all crave excitement and we all want to be the hero.  So managers make management much more interesting than it actually should be.

Imagine, because this might never happen, you have just left work on a six week holiday and you are uncontactable.   There are a number of small projects in flight which you have left behind.  But you know these projects are okay because the management of them is now boring.  When you discuss them with the team the conversation essentially follows patterns which include ‘we are doing the next step in the plan’, ‘we have an issue and it’s with the appropriate owner’, ‘some specific task is delayed because we were performing other more important activities’, or ‘some specific task is delayed so we are spending more time on it instead of some less important task we were going to be working on’.

Getting to the point were these patterns of communication could be used wouldn’t have been easy – it never is – but getting to that point was the real work, was the interesting work.

When management becomes interesting is when there are no shared understandings of the priority of tasks, so there can be no genuine communication regarding ‘more important’ tasks.  Equally, management is interesting when as issues occur there is no shared understanding of the ‘appropriate owner’ so no communication at that level can occur.  It’s really intesting from a management perspective to have to have a long detailed conversation to find the ‘appropriate owner’ in each individual case – but do we want it to always be that way?

The point I’m making is that when management is clear the actual process of managing isn’t very interesting.  The problem is – when you’ve worked hard to become a manager you want your job to be interesting.  You don’t want to just be shuffling paper, ticking boxes, etc.  

But there are only a few ways to make things interesting: get into the work itself, or make the management process interesting by complicating it.  But getting involved in the work isn’t always helpful, and intersting management, exciting management, frequently changing management, is usually always bad.

Comical Economics

If you want to understand economics, the current state of the finance industry, and some of the corruption caused by bizarre inflationary money systems, it’s worth reading How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn’t.

It’s a comic – which is kinda cool – and it was published in 1985 – which makes the parallels with the current financial [industry] meltdown kinda eerie.  (Even the web site is old!  It proudly declares ‘best viewed in Netscape’!)

The comic was written by Irwin Schiff, who is the father of Peter Schiff.  Peter Schiff has been getting a lot of airtime at the moment as the (a) ‘Dr. Doom’ who predicted the crisis.  He actually thinks things are going to get worse (for America) as the situation turns into a currency crisis (for America).

(On a side note – I like how America seems to be calling for a ‘unified approach’ to dealing with the global financial crisis.  Well of course they are!  If you are going to inflate your money supply you need every other country to do the same thing so that your country isn’t disadvantaged relative to other countries!  Sheesh!)

I’m only up to page 70 of the comic (so may words, man!) – but it appears that’s also where the world is up too, or a least the public reporting of it.  So I’m excited about reading what happens next!

Interestingly, while Peter Schiff is doing well his father Irwin, who developed the comic, appears to be currently in jail.  He is some sort of tax denier who doesn’t only dislike tax but thinks it’s ‘voluntary’ – and has argued as such in court.

From what I’ve read his argument is wishful thinking – he seems to be finding the word ‘voluntary’ in various documents relating to the American federal tax system and reading into it that people don’t have to pay if they don’t want to.  But I think what these documents are actually saying is that the tax system relies on voluntary compliance with the law as opposed to knocking on millions of doors and asking for tax (i.e. mandatory compliance).

Sure, if everybody stopped paying tax then the IRS wouldn’t have the resources to move to ‘mandatory’ compliance – but that doesn’t mean everybody wouldn’t be breaking the law.  However, that wouldn’t mean everybody would be prosecuted either – it would mean a revolution, maybe blood would be spilt.  I don’t want blood – let’s just continue to pay our taxes and complain.

Sorry Irwin – I could have saved you 12 years.  That said – I like your style and agree there is something a little fishy (ah, get it?  Fishy! – read the comic) about paying people so they can buy votes.  But, as I said, always pay your taxes.  If a mugger with a knife wants your wallet you give it to them right?

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