Guiding Quote

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Management: the American myth and reality!

Go in to any decent sized bookstore and you'll find shelves and shelves of books on management: The vast majority of them written by Americans. Looking at the output it would be understandable if you assumed that American corporations were the best managed enterprises in the world. And if you consider the booming sub-section on leadership then America leads the world!

Well in both cases they lead the world in writing about both subjects. However in the realm where theory meets practice, or more bluntly where bullshit meets reality, Americans are no better at actually managing than the British, French, Germans, Italians, and Japanese.

Decades of experience in Europe followed by twenty years in the US have led me to the conclusion that nobody has the right to preach to anyone about the right way to manage anything. There are good managers and bad managers everywhere. The proportions are the same the world over: Far fewer good managers than bad managers.

The difference is that Americans write a good game. The invent new buzz words at the drop of a hat: synergy, tasked, focal, solutioning, etc, but their execution is no better than anyone else's.

Take what happened to me this week. I've been dragging a tool configuration project to completion through a more than usual farrago of bad requirements, management changes, and lack of resources. The DBA and myself have been the only ever present members of the team. We are five weeks away from going live. We are, as the great British soccer manager Sir Alex Ferguson as often said, at the "squeaky bottom" time of the project. So imagine my surprise when I was informed that I was being re-assigned to other projects and they wouldn't be replacing me. It was a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (WTF) moment if ever there was one!

What did I do? I just saluted, stored my project artifacts, and moved on. Why? Why not? If the senior management aren't interested why should I be! Sometimes you have to remember the serenity prayer:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference."

Stoicism and pragmatism, seasoned with a tinge of cynicism, are useful virtues for all project managers. 

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