Management laws and principles.
This is part three of a five part series describing the fundamentals of management and should be of particular interest to young people entering the work force or as a refresher for managers. Over the last forty years as a management consultant, I have learned a few things along the way. Hopefully, this will help newcomers entering the work force.
Over the last few columns I described the Three Prime Duties of a Manager, organizational structures, The Five Basic Elements of Mass Production, and Understanding Productivity. Next, I’ll describe a set of management related laws and rules you will undoubtedly hear about in the workplace. As such, you should become familiar with these concepts and how to use them to good effect.
Introduced by Dr. Laurence J. Peter in his 1968 book of the same name, the Peter Principle relates to how people move up and down the corporate hierarchy, specifically how they rise to their level of competency. A problem occurs though when a person rises above his level of competency, whereby he becomes ineffective in performing his job function. Keeping people at such a level is a disservice not only to the company, but to the worker as well. When a person has risen above their level of competency, it will become obvious to others and may affect morale. Standard and routine performance appraisals should help overcome this problem, but if they are infrequently performed or done in an inconsistent manner, the Peter Principle will inevitably kick in. Management will either work with the person to get him back on track, or terminate his employment.
“Parkinson’s Law” was devised by C. Northcote Parkinson, noted British historian and author. His original book, “Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress,” was introduced in 1958 and was a top-selling management book for a number of years (it is still sold today). The book was based on his experience with the British Civil Service. Among his key observation’s was that “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Basically, he suggests people make work in order to rationalize their employment. Consequently, managers create bureaucracies and superfluous work to justify their existence, not because it is really needed (aka, the “making mountains our of mole hills” phenomenon). As an aside, CEO’s clearly understood Parkinson’s Law, which became the driving force behind the flattening of corporations during the 1990’s.
80/20 Rule (Pareto’s Principle)
I have often been asked why it seems only a handful of people always carry the workload. This is not uncommon and is found in everyday life as well. It is commonly referred to as the “80/20 Rule” or “Pareto’s Principle.” Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who observed in 1897 that 80 percent of the land in England was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory thereby relates to the ratio of input to output; e.g. twenty percent of your effort produces 80 percent of your results. From a time management perspective, it means 20 percent of the people are normally responsible for producing 80 percent of the work.
As a manager it thereby becomes important to recognize your core 20 percent workers and concentrate your attention on them. It also becomes important to devise new means to squeeze out the remaining 20 percent of the work from the 80 percent who do not actively participate. This is not to suggest the 80 percent do not care about their work, they just may not be as talented, experienced or as motivated as your 20 percent workers.
One dangerous byproduct of the 80/20 Rule is petty jealousy. Since the 20 percent performs the work, they are thereby deserving of the accolades for performing it. Inevitably, it is not uncommon for small minded individuals from the 80 percent group to feel slighted and jealous of those doing the work and receiving the recognition. Such petty jealously should be overlooked and the person forgiven, unless something more malicious is involved, such as character assassination of which there is no excuse. The manager must carefully squash this behavior before it has an adverse effect on your 20 percent. If not, the 20 percent worker will question why he is working so hard if he is only going to be the object of ridicule and humiliation. The 80/20 Rule is an interesting phenomenon every manager must be cognizant of to get the most out of their workers.
As an aside, I am not a proponent of “Employee of the Month” programs as they tend to encourage individual achievement as opposed to teamwork. The concept of “Employee of the Month” programs is to recognize and reward an employee for outstanding effort and, hopefully, inspire other employees to work as diligently. Instead, such programs tend to generate petty jealousies and disrupt the harmony of the workplace.
W. Edwards Deming (Win/Win)
W. Edwards Deming pioneered quality control principles through statistical analysis in the early part of the 20th century. Unfortunately, his early work was unappreciated in America and, consequently, he applied his talents to help rebuild the industrial complex of postwar Japan. It was only late in life did he receive the recognition of his work in the United States (after Japan became an economic powerhouse). The Deming Award for quality is still coveted in Japan. One of his most famous quotes is, “Quality is everyone’s responsibility.”
To me personally, one of Deming’s biggest contributions was his philosophy of creating “Win/Win” situations in business. Instead of competition, he preached cooperation; instead of rugged individualism, he preached the need for teamwork. Deming observed people too often create “Win/Lose” situations, whereby one person can only win at the expense of the other party losing. Instead, he recommended the creation of “Win/Win” situations whereby both parties cooperate towards success. To illustrate, he would describe how “Nylon” was created by DuPont, which was actually based on a joint research project between offices in New York and London, hence the name “NYLON.”
Deming’s philosophy in this regard is very much compatible with our own Bryce’s Law stating, “The only good business relationship is where both parties benefit.” Instead of promoting cutthroat tactics promoting individualism, what is wrong with achieving success through cooperation?
The term “Catch 22” was derived from Joseph Heller’s book of the same name about World War II. It is commonly used in the business world and represents a no-win situation, e.g., no matter what how you attack a problem, you cannot conquer it. In the course of your personal and professional life you will inevitably run into a Catch 22 along the way.
Murphy’s Laws originated in the 1940’s from the American military and consists of a series of amusing axioms relating to real world experiences. For example, perhaps the best known law is, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” This expression rightfully admonishes us to always prepare for the unexpected. There are many other amusing Murphy’s Laws, but none as profound as this simple expression.
Murphy’s Laws was also the inspiration that led to the development of Bryce’s Laws.
When describing the duties and responsibilities of management, I often use the analogy that management is like driving a car. Too often managers become more obsessed with reading the dials and gauges than actually driving the car. True, the dials and gauges are important and tell us how fast or slow we are going, but they are no substitute for actually driving the car to where we want to go. Management is about leading people in the right direction, creating a suitable work environment for them to perform their work, and having the tenacity to see the job through to completion.
As is mentioned frequently throughout my new book, how we elect to manage others or how we elect to be managed is based on human perceptions, right or wrong. These perceptions dictate the necessity for improving our social skills in the workplace, both the manager and the worker.
Management is about people. And because of this, it’s about effectively communicating, developing trust, and learning to socialize with others.
NEXT TIME: We will review the Personality Types you will meet in the work place and what makes them tick.
In the meantime, if you would like to discuss this article with me, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep the Faith!