Management gone wrong
I emerged from a large corporate space ship today. On the way there I changed out of my rubber slippers in the trishaw, what to satisfy the corporate temple gods. It’s a weird place, slightly horrifying in the uniform cheer, CCTV cameras, security checks, employee surveys and obvious management, but strangely comforting as well. It’s a machine, but the machine seems to work. I’ve been in corporate machines that seem to grind for fun, so it’s actually nice to see one that grinds for a reason. It’s easy to say that middle management is like a flabby midriff, but it may actually have its place. A recent study tested if management consulting made a difference in a bunch of Indian companies. It did: ” The consultants boosted productivity by around 10 percent by improving quality, managing inventory, and speeding up production (Slate)”.
Most of my life I have worked in labor and wondered why management was so stupid. I briefly worked in middle management and wondered how management was so stupid. I have ‘consulted’ with upper management and wondered how management is so stupid. Yet, in well-oiled companies (the types that wouldn’t consult me, for example) management seems to make a difference. I have seen bad management sow bureaucratic chaos and convivial retardation, but I have also seen the absence of management and how horrible that is. But I digress, the whole article is worth a read.
“The before/after photographs of stockrooms and production lines tell pretty much the whole story (some of these photos are reprinted in the study’s back pages). Out of disarray and confusion, there arose order: In storerooms, bags of yarn were now stacked, carefully arranged, and elevated to protect against dampness. Offices previously cluttered with random stacks of paper were now equipped with charts to prioritize and track the flow of inputs and outputs working their way through newly organized assembly lines. Defects were cut in half and inventories fell by nearly 20 percent, even as output increased by 5 percent. Overall, the authors calculate that profits at each factory—assuming the new practices remained in effect—would improve by more than $200,000 per year.”
At a cost of about $250,000 for a five-month consultancy, it seems that a good middle management may be more muscle than bloat.