A Lucy Kellaway piece on the worst management fads got plenty of response from Globe and Mail readers, who had a few examples of their own to add to the mix.
Here are some of the best comments on other management fads our audience has watched go awry.
Total quality management
JPP221 wrote: “You missed: TQM – total quality management. It’s code for more group meetings to discuss processes, manuals, teamwork, and just about everything other than making stuff, making it well, and shipping it. Oh, but there will be muffins at the meeting.”
DeiterHH called TQM “A Japanese plot to confuse their North American competition.”
DeiterHH said that another fad missing from the list was ISO. It’s okay only “if you assassinate any emerging bureaucracy. It’s a good training vehicle to have everybody familiar with operations to the point they can answer customer quality audit questions.
“Most of these fads are perpetrated by authors and/or consultants trying to sell the latest snake oil cure for business foibles. Don’t go there but use common sense,” was this reader’s advice.
Critical Thinking wrote about this fad: “Then there was ‘rank and yank’ thanks to Jack Welsh (former CEO of General Electric). The one where you take a well functioning and productive group and introduce pathological competition that weeds out those focused on doing the job not on the spreadsheet evaluation weights.
“I have seen this technique drive a business into bankruptcy – literally. The top performers were yanked and the organization sat there for a while like Wile E. Coyote until it dropped like a stone. It would be funny if it weren’t tragic.”
Michael Moore wrote that the push for companies to grow into a a conglomerate ended in failure.
“Core competency makes a lot more sense than one of the fads to which it was a reaction: the conglomerate. The bottom line of the conglomerate was that, if you were good at one thing, you could transfer the skills to be good at anything. Or everything. It’s management theory run wild.
“If you were running a successful insurance company, buy a railway and a shoe company and a grocery store and a gold mine and a telephone company. Some of the conglomerates were mercifully broken up before they destroyed themselves.”
J_R wrote that: “Although this is not a fad, the worst management practice is to overvalue management’s contributions to the organization, and to bring in more managers, and more levels of management. Apart from the expense of maintaining those parasites ... it is demoralizing to those who actually do productive work, and who know what is being done, and what needs to be done. This management practice is usually the reason a company goes from growing and being innovative, into going into decline as self-serving bureaucrats eat it alive.”
Dick Garneau wrote that one of the worst management fads is “the mad panic at year-end to spend the budget for fear of getting their budget reduced next year.”
He added that managers would do better to “replace arrogance with humility, replace entitlement with fairness.”
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Emile’s Buddy wrote that this might not be a fad but is “merely a tried and true management technique.”
“The best managers know that a guaranteed way to exhibit success is to launch a project without telling your boss and, if the project fails, bury it and say nothing. However, if the project is nearing completion and it is proving to be an obvious success, still say nothing and include it as a ‘new’ project to be launched in the next planning period. Attach performance bonuses to it. In the following period, announce successful completion of the project and claim the prize money.”
“I worked for a couple of large international companies in finance, production and, finally, marketing, and I saw this happen over and over again.”