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article imageOp-Ed: Middle management — Time to go, forever

By Paul Wallis     Jul 15, 2017 in Business
Sydney - Middle management has long been one of the longest four letter words in any language. It’s a mix of bureaucracy, trivia, and obstructive practices which has stymied real change for years, and it’s getting worse.
At a convention in Sydney, Group Executive of Digital Banking at ANZ, Maile Carnegie, got an enthusiastic reaction to her ripping up of middle management in large organizations. She depicted unskilled middle management at its worst, and above all, fear of change. The chronic obstruction and let’s face it, equally inept implementation, of change is the story of the age. I’m not going to paraphrase; read the article from Digital Pulse and see what you think.
Meanwhile, the big issue is perhaps the single most unproductive, useless group of alleged people in business today.
Let’s clarify a few points:
Middle management is the source of the utterly useless Business Meeting Culture at its worst. It’s the people who never should have required performance reviews to keep track of performance, and the endless bullying and nitpicking which defines modern management.
These people aren’t paid to do any of these things, and there are tens of millions of them, infesting the Earth. They’re Parkinson’s Law incarnate, and if you haven’t read Parkinson’s Law, read it before your soul evaporates. It’s the rule book for middle and higher management at their least impressive.
Parkinson’s Law was published in 1958. It’s been a bible for the experts ever since and a common reference for quickly defining management problems ever since. None of the “revelations” about middle management are new.
What’s new are the new things that they’re obstructing, sabotaging, and botching. These things include:
• Digital management, which will put the middle managers out of work soon enough, however obstructive they are.
• Basic business, which is what people are NOT doing when they spend their entire lives in meetings not doing their real jobs.
• Elimination of ridiculous levels of bureaucracy which impede every business and administrative process.
Middle management now operates like welding a Stegosaurus in front of the family car and driving on the freeway. It’s slow, clumsy, and a liability to everything around it. It often gets nowhere at all, and the car needs endless maintenance after every attempt to move.
Carnegie is pretty systematic and maybe too tolerant, evaluating issues for middle management, and showing a system for analysis. That may be more than average middle management deserves. It’s like “Be Kind to Diseases”.
In many cases, middle management is a nasty piece of work. It’s the source of bullying, stress, and chronic underachievement in business terms. The basic rule is that the fussier and more detail-obsessed middle management is, the more incompetent and less productive it is.
I worked in the employment sector for years, and I can give you a very simple Q&A to define middle management:
• Who creates whole new shifts for single parents which they can’t work and threatens them with losing their jobs?
• Who creates legal risks with bad, indefensible work practices like that and many other variants?
• Who stresses out staff to the point they can barely do their jobs, and generates churnover?
• Who finds reasons for giving themselves praise for work that didn’t need doing anyway?
• Who takes credit for the work of others on a routine basis, and contributes very little, if anything, themselves?
This is also the source of the absurd “look busy” mindset. Play acting at working hard, not finding productive things to do having done other work. Not adding value, just adding time as per Parkinson’s Law.
Just one more thing – Middle management is dead and buried as of “dashboard management”, real time reporting, and people who know how to use modern systems. If blocking change relates to fear of death on the part of middle management, it’s way too late. Most middle management jobs will be gone in 10 years or so. There’s no reason for them to exist.
Senior management is responsible for tolerating these rabid gerbils well beyond their expiry date in the modern workplace. The middle managers have no future and no reason for existence in 99% of cases.
The only issue now is how fast this hideous species of fools and frauds can become extinct in the workplace. Get on with it.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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