Written on July 8, 2012 by Ignacio Gafo in Innovation, International Marketing

With some many articles going around Traps, I cannot stop myself from adding another one: The Management Trap.

The idea for writing it cam when reading an article from Vanity Fair, that explained how a management system implemented at Microsoft is killing innovation + creativity + team work. The system basically forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor, being the result a pool of employees that are more concerned with giving the right impression to their managers, than doing their job properly…

Some time ago I alerted about this sort of management approaches, that are actually becoming more common than we think: Management approaches that basically push short term results, a bunch of safe options and giving the impression that we are taking the right (expected) decisions.

Those systems are the result of the current pressure for short-term results, for delivering quick wins, for taking no risks and reassure our stockholders that the company is on track.

In the short term the company it seems to work fine. The company keeps on doing what is expected to do, assuming very few and controlled risks. Sales and profits are the priority and things seem to run smoothly. Problem comes however in the mid and long term,  as soon as the company realizes that the “business as usual” is not working any more. The market is changing dramatically, consumer do want different staff, purchasing behaviors are not anymore the same, technologies seem to play a big role and big deal of change and innovation is a must.

Companies try to react. They do launch then ad hoc initiatives (usually termed Strategic Programs), contract Strategic Consultancies in search of a short-term recipe (that is actually a sort of miracle) that will bring back innovation and even bring in new blood to the organization (usually top performers from other industries). And guess what? They rarely succeed!

The “business as usual” traction is so ingrained in the organization and its culture, that change in the short term is virtually impossible (although there might be exceptions).  It requires a new Senior Management (or even CEO), that provides the company with a new vision, a new culture and of course, a new management system to drive the change… in the mid and long run.

Where would you expect to find the Management Trap? You go it right: Mainly in successful companies that have managed to lead industries for many years, and have now become behemoths, driven by a  bunch of executives working on an automatic march.

Great contradiction, you will agree: In a moment of big change, companies are unable to play on flexibility and innovation, because of the old recipes that made them great…


Ignacio Gafo

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