MT Masterclass - Management

What is it? We may think we know what management is - communicating with staff, setting goals, supervising work, and holding people to account for their actions.

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Last Updated: 23 Mar 2016

According to the late Peter Drucker: 'Management is tasks. Management is discipline. But management is also people. Every achievement of management is the achievement of a manager. Every failure is the failure of a manager.' But Henry Minztberg studied managers in action and concluded that their days were far more random, messy and complicated than Drucker's statement suggests. Guess what? Managers get interrupted a lot and have really difficult days.

Where did it come from? The pyramids and the Great Wall of China are testaments to supreme management competence; the unreadiness of Wembley stadium points in the opposite direction. But then managing slaves is a lot easier than managing free citizens. Management was not properly studied till the work of FW Taylor 100 years ago. His 'scientific management' described the modern industrial production line, and was adopted by Henry Ford and by Alfred Sloan at General Motors. After the war, the 'empowered' worker emerged. W Edwards Deming influenced Toyota in its search for quality and zero defects. But 'command and control' persists.

Where is it going? Under John Birt, it was said, the BBC was 'over-managed and under-led'. There was too much micro-level fuss and not enough vision and inspiration. In the dot.com days, businesses were under-managed and over-led: all talk and no sales. In grumpy, competitive 2006, the buzzword is 'execution' - getting things done. But are we any better at it? The CIPD says Britain's sluggish productivity is mostly down to bad management.

Oh dear. Anyone got any better ideas?

Fad quotient (out of 10) - Eight and rising.

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