Sunday, 12 June 2011
[Image by Lukas Riebling]
Workers and managers. Somehow there's a line crossed when you go from one to the other. Not always, but almost always. A bit of us and them
Why is that? What makes someone change when he or she becomes a manager? Sometimes it's even like they join something like the Illuminati
I once heard someone say: "workers do their work in order to please the client, management does what it does in order to please their bosses"
How many of you have witnessed reorganisations, where people were laid off? I have witnessed many from close-by, and noticed that workers get laid off, while managers get moved to different management positions. Less people to please the client, same amount of people to please their bosses. In the Netherlands, and Europe in general, it's costly to fire people as that can involve up to hundreds of thousands of euros per person. So if you have a target "from above" to lay off people, best to pick the cheapest ones: the usual company calendar only covers a couple of months.
Where it would be a good investment in the long run to fire managers who cost more than they contribute, they usually stay in the saddle. Typically, they don't look for or find jobs elsewhere. Deeply rooted in the organisation, it takes great effort to have them grow in the desired direction
Not that all workers are perfect, of course - people are people and change is a difficult process for most if not all. But chances are great that you know the targets of your colleagues, but have no idea what the goals are for your manager(s). I once told my manager that I didn't need him, and would like some extra money in return: as I didn't have a need for him, I didn't need to pay for his salary. He laughed. I think he didn't get it
A little story about the creation of management
There once was a bridge guardian who managed two bridges across the same river. He'd use his bicycle to peddle from one to the other. Whenever a ship needed to pass, he'd manually lower the barriers, raise the bridge and the ship would pay a small fee.
There were plenty of ships that needed to pass, it was a popular route. The bridge guardian only made 30,000 a year, but earned a tenfold of that from the ships passing. All that money he duly turned in every week
At some point, he was told that he'd get a manager as the city council had set specific thresholds. What his boss didn't tell, was that the company wanted a supervisor for every bridge guardian turning in more than 100,000 annually.
The manager cost 75,000 (also conveniently untold to the bridge guardian) and quickly started keeping track of each ship passing by. He noted their names, where they were heading to, coming from, the date and time they passed, and how much they paid. At first he rode along with the bridge guardian from bridge to bridge, but soon decided he'd need a scooter so he could get there before the bridge guardian and oversee the operation.
Traveling with his laptop back and forth wasn't very convenient though. He asked for an office on the third floor of a building from where he could overlook both bridges, and made the bridge guardian ask the questions so he could do his fact-keeping
The bridge guardian wasn't used to this kind of extra work, and sometimes forgot to ask some if not all of the questions. The manager made a checklist for him that he had to use so he couldn't forget. Four times a day, the bridge guardian would turn in the checklist so the manager could enter the data into his laptop
After 6 months, the manager noticed that less and less ships were passing, and earnings went down. in stead of asking the bridge guardian whether he had an explanation for this, he hired an external consulting agency specialised in water, boats and tourism. After 10 days of research (at a 20,000 cost) they gave him a flashy 30-page report with lots of graphs and statistics. In it, the result that the bridge guardian could have told for free in one minute: during Winter, ships are less likely to cross bridges than in Summer
When the new year had begun, the city council had done their figures and told the manager that income was down by 40%, and that they had received several complaints from ships that had to wait a long time before they could pass.
The manager neglected to figure out that that 40% was his salary, the cost of the scooter, half a year rent of office space and the agency's fee, and decided to tell the bridge guardian the bad news. He also froze the bridge guardian's salary, who as a consequence saw his 2.1% raise disappear again
The manager decided to hire another consulting agency to figure out where the money had gone, and after 15 days and 30,000 they handed over a 40-page report with one best solution to the problem: fire the bridge guardian. The bridges could be automated, they told, at a 300,000 investment that would be returned after 10 years if the bridge guardian were laid off
And that's what was decided. The bridge guardian was laid off, and the manager remained in his office. The inevitable persistent drop in income was fixed by raising the price for passing ships with 50%, and slap on another 5% every year after.
Now he had turned these two bridges "back into profitable mode and growth within 1.5 years", the manager got promoted and given another two bridges to supervise
And the bridge guardian? He moved to another town and became bridge guardian for a city that had recently paid their last term for a fully automated bridge control. As the system was a little flawed and costly to maintain, they had figured out it was far cheaper to have it operated manually
The morale? You tell me