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The long devoured schools of management thought
Old 10-21-2018, 04:33 AM   #1
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The long devoured schools of management thought

Happened to catch an advice column that dealt with issues on where one should sit in company meetings and the fallout thereof. After the first wave of relief washed over me - free at last! - I remembered, without fondness, all the ridiculous meetings I had attended and the corporate management "change initiatives" they had involved. (One commenter even used that term, seemingly without shame."

How many "change initiatives" can you name, now long since sleeping with the fishes?

I'll start with "Total Quality Management," for which I had to attend several meetings and sign some sort of pledge. My institution even had an office dedicated to it.
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Old 10-21-2018, 05:17 AM   #2
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My all-time favorite was Lou Tice, a motivational speaker with a program that he sold to big companies. Apparently an executive from our MegaCorp went to one of his presentations and bought it hook, line and sinker.

We were all given copies of Lou's book, and a 3-ring binder full of cassette tapes and other BS. We were ordered to sit through lots of hours-long (and in some cases, day-long) meetings, explaining how to be nice to others and similar fluff.

The workers already knew all this stuff. It was all things that your mother or kindergarten teacher SHOULD have taught you.

The irony was, upper management kept saying how new and exciting this material was, and how they'd never heard it before. Yeah. We know. That's why you're all such a-holes!

One good thing, I sold the book on eBay, when it was new and I wanted to see how it worked. At least I got $10 out of the deal.

Runner-up was the change initiative the year before. Each small work group was to hold endless meetings to identify their "top 10" suggestions for improvement. Then larger groups would meet to compare suggestions, and come up with their combined top 10. It would flow up the organization until the top executives were presented with the "best" top 10 list possible. We sat through dozens of meetings hashing out ideas.

What really happened, was as the lists went up the chain, management at each level would delete the workers' recommendations and substitute their own. In the end, top executives simply put their own top 10 ideas on the list.

Which is fine. That's what they're paid to do. Workers are paid to do what the executives decide. Why not just say that, instead of wasting everyone's time and productivity on the pretense of getting input they really didn't want?
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Old 10-21-2018, 06:26 AM   #3
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Ugh. SO many over my career.

Management by Objectives. Well, at least that made some sort of sense.

Storyboarding, a way of getting all the thoughts of group members, putting them on index cards in a board, and whittling them down- except that what was left was go general and watered-down it was meaningless.

Six Sigma. I never got to Green Belt because I could not honestly find a project in my business (insurance) that fit the model. I did see some really stupid insurance-related Six Sigma projects.
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Old 10-21-2018, 06:27 AM   #4
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My two favorites.

Upper management wanted to reduce headcount and costs, so they offered a separation package to all employees who voluntarily left. We were in a very rural area with few better choices. There was a giant sucking sound of good employees with good skills who were not tied to the area who pocketed the dough and promptly got a job elsewhere... meanwhile the deadwood that knew they had no chance of promptly finding a job elsewhere stayed... so not only did we have less resources but they were inferior resources. Some of those who voluntarily left were later hired back as consultants at a higer cost than when they were employees!

The second one was a few years later.... same objective to reduce headcount and costs. There was a big initiative with a consulting firm acting as "facilitators" to identify practices that we could change to be more efficient. That first part was actually good and we identified a number of process changes that would result in less work, routine reports that were no longer needed, etc. The next step was fine too... to estimate the impact of those changes on headcount once the changes were implemented. The next part was the stupid part... they laid off the number of people but they did it BEFORE the process changes had been implemented! So there we were... with less resources expected to not only do the same day-to-day work with the same old processes but also a demand to implement the identified process changes asap with less resources.

It was after that one that I decided that I had enough.
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Old 10-21-2018, 06:30 AM   #5
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I liked when my megacorp got into Sigma Six training.

The trouble was that employees in our company worked like Trojans every minute of every day. We worked harder than any other white collar workers I've ever seen. And nobody ever had time to take on other management methods because of the extremely fast moving pace of our business.

Once they brought in an engineer to try to use his talents to make us more efficient. He'd sit for hours on end with a stopwatch timing how long it took to pick up the phone when someone called, and he bisected every little job task in the form of seconds. He tried to come up with standards that would tell us how many employees it took for us to do X units of work. And his project was quickly trashed after a year of hard work.
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Old 10-21-2018, 07:12 AM   #6
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Some of these sound familiar, especially Six Sigma, but I think I'll keep this stuff buried as stuff I don't want to relive. You could usually count on the word "paradigm" to show up a few times, which was the reason for my remark in the Eudaimonia thread. <Shudder>

I do remember one program where we had to predict the number of software bugs the test team would find in the code we'd written, before shipping the product. A few of us from one group had joined a large mainframe product suite team and we didn't know their processes, so we actually gave this some serious thought about how complex it was, new interfaces, etc, and came up with a number. The manager was taken aback, and said "I didn't think it'd be that high. I think it'll be a problem if I take that number forward." So we asked her what number she wanted, she told us, and we said, OK, use that. I don't recall the final count, but I'm pretty sure it was a little over our original number. The whole project was a bad idea, and I'm not sure if any customers even bought it.
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Old 10-21-2018, 07:40 AM   #7
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Six sigma, TQM, zero based budgeting. Lots of acronyms to get fired up about. I wonder what new fads have evolved in my absence.
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Old 10-21-2018, 07:50 AM   #8
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Too many to count; no desire to recall them; invariably, they required a lot of expensive contractors to show us poor backwoods govvies how to "implement" them; mainly by setting up tons of tedious meetings where Power Points were displayed.

The contractors were so blatantly self-serving, and it was far too easy to get on their "blacklist" if one called attention to any hypocrisy or waste.
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Old 10-21-2018, 07:55 AM   #9
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Management techniques were a dime a dozen. All bizarre little games for people who didn't know how to get things done.

The changes in systems development methodologies were just a bizzare and full of idiot ideas. I often told folks any methodology that needed a manifesto was a waste.
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:10 AM   #10
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invariably, they required a lot of expensive contractors to show us poor backwoods govvies how to "implement" them; mainly by setting up tons of tedious meetings where Power Points were displayed.
Even before PowerPoint, we used to say the definition of an "expert" was somebody who didn't know any more than you did, but came from out of town and had color slides.
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:20 AM   #11
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Even before PowerPoint, we used to say the definition of an "expert" was somebody who didn't know any more than you did, but came from out of town and had color slides.
Or "outside consultant".....someone coming in to tell you what time it is using your own watch.


My favorite was "CQI" or "Continuous Quality Improvement". I called it the
"Current Quality Infatuation".
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Old 10-21-2018, 08:24 AM   #12
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It's nice to sit here at home on a Sunday and know that I don't have to go in to w*rk tomorrow to face any of this management BS. Keep 'em coming!

The mentions of Six Sigma bring back fond memories. Well, they're fond now. Only because I don't have to deal with it any more.

Our home office in another state was staffed with a lot of short-timers who really drank the corporate Kool-Aid. At my site we were mostly older and had seen too many flavor-of-the-week management theories come and go.

It was interesting to watch the young folks get so excited about each new program. Some really threw themselves into Six Sigma, spending all their time earning "belts" and writing plans. Fortunately we never had to implement most of those plans.
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Old 10-21-2018, 09:01 AM   #13
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I don’t even remember what is a Six Sigma, the term is familiar though.
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Old 10-21-2018, 09:45 AM   #14
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One of my favorites was a workshop on telephone etiquette the higher-ups decided we needed. The instructor handed out little desktop mirrors so everyone could make sure they were smiling while on the phone.

The next day the boss came into the office, laughing. He said the GM had told him the consultant had complained that our group was the most hostile she'd ever encountered ... probably because we had about 50 phone calls to make and didn't have time for a two-hour workshop on how to smile.
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Old 10-21-2018, 09:58 AM   #15
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Union guys in the paper mill had plenty of cartoons they'd bring out when management spouted TQM and process.
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Old 10-21-2018, 10:13 AM   #16
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I guess it is not surprising that the various programs and approaches made it to many companies. Like most people here, I found most of them a waste as they were not really customized. I will say I got something out of most of them (but did not receive the value expected) except the 'dot com' guys who were brought in.

Our owner who earned his position through the accident of birth, thought the dot-com companies could teach us a lot. The approach they wanted us to execute was 'ready-fire-aim. An absolutely crazy idea for a consumer product company. Changing on the move was very difficult. We needed no less than a year (in the recommended approach) for just testing package integrity. These people did not have a clue. I can't remember how we stopped this effort. It was either someone convinced the owner or the dot-com crash. A few good dinners but what a crazy time.
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Old 10-21-2018, 10:22 AM   #17
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One word alone may have driven me to leave the corporate world, "Sustainability". To this day, I kick the dog when I here it.
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Old 10-21-2018, 05:47 PM   #18
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Fortunately only a little bit of that nonsense penetrated into my job, but I did have to write a "mission statement".

So glad I didn't work for a megacorp. I probably would have gone to prison for murdering some idiot.
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Old 10-21-2018, 06:21 PM   #19
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A long, long time ago, back around 1984, my special assignment was to carry the then new, "management by objective" project around to our seven corporate centers. It meant flying around the country and working with territorial and district managers... five days a week for almost a year. One of the bonuses was a chance to work with Zig Ziglar, probably the greatest motivational speaker ever.

Burnt into my psyche "Selling is like shaving... If you don't do it every day, you're a bum."

The most fun was developing individual plans with those in management...letting them work their own ideas and plans into our corporate objective.

Fond memories.
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Old 10-21-2018, 06:58 PM   #20
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