Work-Life Strategies & Solutions

On the Evolution of Work Systems in the Digital Economy

Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix it

Conventional wisdom posits that the needs of employees and their employer are at odds with each other, however this assumption is not necessarily true. A mutually symbiotic relationship granting employees freedom and flexibility while increasing engagement and, hence, productivity is achievable! Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix it: A Results-Only Guide to Taking Control of Work, Not People will force you to examine how you think about work as well as how we unknowingly support the current, conventional view of work through the establishment and use of flexible work arrangements. Conventional flexible work arrangements, by the way, can’t achieve what a results-only work environment (ROWE) can.

In this book, authors Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson make a solid case for prioritizing and measuring results, creating a culture of transparency, trust, and accountability in the process. This means tossing out the misinformed notion that employees’ productivity is somehow correlated with the hours they put in. How is this misinformed? Just think about all the possible ways to stretch out work assignments or subtly fill in some of that time at the office with non-work related activities. Wonder no more about how workers in an entire nation can come to be known for pulling long hours and yet not be all that productive!

Indeed, Ressler and Thompson recount how naturally competition on the basis of being physically present for long hours emerges when managers don’t make results their one and only measure of productivity. The message: Treat employees like the adults that they are and allow them to own the work as well as the process through which they perform it. It doesn’t matter when, where, or how the work is performed as long as the agreed upon outcome is achieved on time.

Ressler and Thompson walk you through real case studies, providing a clear understanding of how their trainers facilitate the necessary culture change within the organization. For example, they explain why it is critical to:

  • Rethink and reestablish how everyone in the organization perceives and talks about when and where employees work (i.e, disregard whether an employee is putting in long hours or not, is physically present or absent, and early or late).
  • Leave it up to employees to decide when they take time off, which means allowing unlimited vacation and sick days (as formal vacation and sick day policies must be managed and having a ROWE means that only the work is managed, not the employees).
  • Ensure meetings are absolutely necessary as unproductive meetings are one of the biggest time wasters (practical guidelines are provided in the book), and make all meetings optional.

Finally, Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix it shows how a ROWE is compatible with all kinds of jobs that’re commonly cited as being incompatible with a ROWE. This is my absolute favorite part of the book. For instance, they describe how a ROWE can be established for non-exempt employees (while staying in compliance of regulations that have been considered obstacles). Ressler and Thompson also describe how their trainers facilitated transition to a ROWE for an organization in the field of education as well as a public sector organization.

In a previous post, I’ve acknowledged individuals who stated their preference for the conventional, Industrial Age system of work and accepted their own self-assessment about their abilities and desire not to work under a new system. However, it is my hope that even some of the most reluctant among us will, at some point, choose to take the plunge and find out that the water is just fine! Ressler and Thompson’s thoughts on the human need for self-determination as well as their optimistic view that so many of us can come to enjoy working under a ROWE inspires this hope. Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix it is a refreshing, practical guide that will show you how all of this is possible.

2 responses to “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix it

  1. n8chz February 22, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    As to the original question: Why does managing suck?

    My answer: The combination of two factors. One is the fact that being managed sucks. The other is the Golden Rule. You hear it all the time in the media, particular those local or regional public affairs shows on local TV (at least where I live). The editorial slant of the show is inevitably leadership is short for business leadership” and the featured guests inevitably bear news that “only entrepreneurship can save our local economy,” and highlight the need for managers with the talent for “making tough decisions.” In rare moments of candor they sometimes refer to these as “unpopular decisions.” So yes, managing sucks. Many occupations have been obsoleted over the centuries. It will be interesting when it’s management’s turn. I hope it happens during my lifetime, if nothing else, so I can ask: Unpopular with whom?

    BTW, thankx for the shout out

    • Lynn Patra February 23, 2013 at 1:47 am

      No problem! And yes, many thinkers have forecast that this latest revolution in information-communication technology means the “black death” for middle-managers and the possible flattening of the traditional organizational hierarchy. However, I’ve seen 2 versions of this: (1) total elimination of this particular job function as leaders find they can communicate and delegate openly and directly with employees (I’ve encountered 1 instance of this but don’t know how this is playing out) or (2) a new type of manager is needed – one that plays a more facilitating, support role rather than a directive “command & control) role for employees (as in “how can I help you access the tools and resources you need to do your job?”).

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