If you are reading this note it is because we have reached the end of management. This note was coded into all technology systems developed after 7 April 1964 (a date we fondly recall as ‘Peak Management’). We knew management would not last so we designed this message as a final push communication across all known means of communication, formerly known as channels. Publication of this message has been triggered by the departure of the last manager from the organisation.
We are calling to a close an extraordinary and extended period of world class management. Don’t worry if you are vague on that term. Just like a vision statement, you won’t have to live it and we never knew what it meant. We were great managers. Nobody gave us any real performance or productivity measures. We were too busy discussing how to manage you. The clever invention of peer ranking enabled us to skip the need to be more specific. The fact that we were allowed to do management for so long is our key proof point on how important we have been. When the histories of management are written, they will write about us and of course, GE. If only GE had continued to be a management role model, we might still be doing it. So much for management science, consultants and all those gurus.
We never really thought it would last this long. It seems like it has been downhill since the 1950s, but then we found ways to compensate ourselves for the loss of secretaries, long lunches and the executive lunchroom. We always find ways to compensate ourselves. We even triggered a final management compensation package with this message. Sorry if you got a little shortchanged. The robots or your peers may be more generous to you than we were.
We know you will miss the meetings, the reports, the obscure politics, the powerpoint, the email, the 360 reviews, the performance appraisals and the complete lack of transparency as to what was actually going on. We will. Most of all, we will miss the money and the status. Oh, and listening to the sound of our own voice. Such a pity that someone finally coined HiPPO. It exposed all the aspects of our little game.
Now it is up to You
Good luck working out how the organisational system works. We hope you have better luck than we did. We never quite got the hang of the interdependencies and the networks. Silos were a nice try to hide our lack of understanding. Restructures worked well for a while to keep everyone confused. The blizzard of management jargon and techniques kept everyone busy arguing over which of the latest fads was the best way to work (Wasn’t Holacracy a clever way to buy a few more years?). All those disconnected performance targets was another great strategy to avoid having to work out how the place actually runs.
Enjoy the autonomy. We may have had power, but autonomy is a different thing. Our power was mostly useful for clashing with other power. You might actually get to use your autonomy to do something purposeful, particularly if you are able to build trust and influence some colleagues and networks to collaborate with you. Run some experiments with changing the world. The customers and community would be pleased if you made a difference for them. They got a little tired waiting for us.
If we have one word of advice it is leverage the potential of people. We spoke a lot about “people being our best assets” and “world class talent” but mostly we just repeated what we read in books about management. That was much easier than doing something with people. You have a chance to use and grow the diverse capabilities of all the individuals in the organisation. There’s lots of potential we never tapped. You will have to make decisions that take the potential of people into account because they will be a part of the decision making process. Oddly, treating people like assets, machines and a commodity didn’t seem to realise the potential for organisations to learn, perform and grow.
So long and thanks for all the bonuses
So thanks for all your hard work, commitment to the organisation and putting up with our efforts at management. We are gone now but we will still be watching. The world is far more transparent. We were never able to adapt to all that transparency, openness and interaction. However, we will be able to keep a better eye on you now and learn what we should have done as you work out the path forward together.
Unfortunately for us, we will have no more opportunities to talk at you. We are all off to explore potential careers in politics.
[End of Message]