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17 Management Fads Almost as Dumb as the Open Plan Office

Companies have wasted trillions of dollars on these ridiculous but plausible-sounding ideas.

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BY Geoffrey James - 29 Mar 2019

managment fads

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Earlier today, somebody tweeted in response to my all-time most popular post "It's Official: Open-Plan Offices Are Now the Dumbest Management Fad of All Time" that

"There are a plethora of studies both for and against."

I responded with:

"Bullsh*t. The 'studies' in favor of open plan are egregious biz-blab with zero evidence and not even a febrile attempt at actual research."

To my vast surprise, my riposte was retweeted by Bob Sutton, bestselling author of The No Assh*le Rule, (and one of the smartest dudes in the business world, IMO):

"'The dumbest idea of all time' is clickbait. But weight of the evidence is strong against open offices. They are cheaper, but productivity and other problems--including that contagious illnesses spread faster--are well-documented. Don't believe studies by architects especially"

What Bob calls " clickbait" I call "a good headline" because honestly I can't think of ANY management fad that is dumber than the open plan office. That being said, there are plenty of candidates:

1. 360-Degree Feedback

The Idea: Ask everyone who interacts with an individual what they think about their performance.

Why It's Dumb: Only an idiot would believe their criticisms of their boss will be kept confidential.

2. Agile Software Development

The Idea: High-quality, usable software will naturally evolve through the "collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams and their users."

Why It's Dumb: A group of unmanaged programmers is about as likely to come up with usable software as a group of monkeys to randomly type "50 Shades of Grey."

3. Artificial Intelligence

The Idea: Self-learning algorithms will replicate the success of the best and most profitable management decisions in the past.

Why It's Dumb: Corporate success is more a matter of luck and circumstance than any kind of replicatable decision-making.

4. Business Process Reengineering

The Idea: Corporations should "fundamentally rethink how they they do their work to improve customer service, cut operational costs, and become world-class competitors."

Why It's Dumb: Rengineering a corporation while it's operating is the logical equivalent of reengineering an airplane while flying it.

5. Collaboration

The Idea: Decentralized, egalitarian groups of individuals in constant communication with each other will generation innovation and greater efficiency.

Why It's Dumb: Everyone knows that business meetings are huge time-wasters. Why would anyone believe that EVEN MORE meetings wouldn't be worse?

6. Consensus Management

The Idea: Major decisions should require formal agreement from all stakeholders in all affected organizations.

Why It's Dumb: It creates a situation where each organization can veto any decision; hence only the most obvious and risk-free decisions get made.

7. Delayering

The Idea: Removings multiple layers of management will increase the speed and effectiveness of decision-making.

Why It's Dumb: It's been repeatedly proven that nobody can effectively manage more than a dozen or so people.

8. Empowerment

The Idea: Line employees should feel that they have the power to make decisions without getting management approval.

Why It's Dumb: This translates to: if things go well, the manager takes credit; if things go poorly, the employee is blamed.

9. Enterprise Resource Planning

The Idea: Integrate all the functions of the corporation into one centralized, consistent computing architecture.

Why It's Dumb: Because ERP systems never work right and are never done, they're a full-employment plan for huge IT consulting firms.

10. Knowledge Management

The Idea: Companies should take a "multidisciplinary approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge."

Why It's Dumb: Some manages to be both painfully obvious (in a "well, duh" way) and also so vague as to be meaningless.

11. Management by Objectives

The Idea: Set reasonable goals for each individual and measure their progress in acheiving those goals.

Why It's Dumb: Priorities change over time, rendering the defined objectives either meaningless or actively counterproductive.

12. Management by Wandering Around

The Idea: A manager should wander into people's offices and work areas, ask questions and provide advice.

Why It's Dumb: Actually an excuse for bosses to get their butts kissed, which is why bosses like it so much.

13. Matrix Management

The Idea: Employees report to multiple bosses in order to prevent organizations from becoming stovepiped.

Why It's Dumb: The multiple bosses become locked in a turf war so that they're positioned to become the "real boss" when the fad subsides.

14. One-Minute Management

The Idea: Managers need only spend one minute to set goals, one minute to praise employees and one minute reprimanding them.

Why It's Dumb: Face-to-face tweeting isn't all that more effective a management tool than online tweeting.

15. Six Sigma

The Idea: Create a set of statistical measurements, train certain individuals to be expert in them, and have those individuals monitor performance.

Why It's Dumb: It creates a hierarchy of know-it-alls who don't really understand the jobs that they're critiquing.

16. Stack Ranking

The Idea: Decide who gets promoted and who gets fired using the "vote them off the island" methodology later perfected for the Survivor TV show.

Why It's Dumb: Creates the perfect conditions for rampant racism, sexism, favoritism, backbiting, gossiping and lying. Popular in Silicon Valley.

17. Theory Z

The Idea: Attempt to increase employee loyalty by "providing a job for life with a strong focus on the well-being of the employee, both on and off the job."

Why It's Dumb: The idea of a "job for life" is as fanciful and fantastical as a herd of unicorns dancing the light fandango.

 

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