Sense and Nonsense in the Office: No Theories, No Flow Charts, No Big Words

Overview

After a bit of thought I have come up with the following observations and generalities. They are, of course, glaringly obvious. But then management ideas are obvious. Any that aren't obvious tend to be wrong.

Rule 1

Management is one of ...

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Overview

After a bit of thought I have come up with the following observations and generalities. They are, of course, glaringly obvious. But then management ideas are obvious. Any that aren't obvious tend to be wrong.

Rule 1

Management is one of the most difficult jobs going, and is harder now than ever because the challenges are greater.

Rule 2

Most people are bad at managing, some are very bad. Hardly anyone can do it well.

Rule 3

Good managers need to be both hard and soft, decent and ruthless, good at the big picture and at the small detail.

Rule 4

In view of the above, the market for management consultants, trainers, gurus, business schools and business books is expanding, apparently without limit.

Rule 5

While most of the management help industry is of dubious value, managers do need the experience and advice of wise outsiders. But to follow that advice blindly - as many companies do - is, of course, idiotic.

Rule 6

Any new management technique that comes with a catchphrase is suspect. It almost certainly will not suit the company in question, and even if it does, the management will probably fail to apply it properly.

Rule 7

It is hard to teach a middle-aged dog new tricks. People who are rotten communicators do not become better by virtue of having been on a course, or having read a book. Improving and changing is a long, painful slog.

Rule 8

People like security. They like to be told what to do. Empowerment and flat structures are over-rated.

Rule 9

All work is tedious for much of the time. If everyone accepts this, then so much thebetter.

That is the short answer. The long answer is this book, which is based on five years of writing a management column for the Financial Times.


"In producing a business book I am aware that I have broken one of my own rules. Over the years I have made good money scoffing and sneering at management books, and yet here I am producing one myself."— Lucy Kellaway

Sense and Nonsense in the Office offers no tips, no formulas, no panaceas, no handy hints. You may be wondering what that leaves. What it leaves is a set of prejudices.

You think it sounds unpromising? The good think about someone else's prejudices is that they either confirm your own, or they make you cross - either of which is a blessing in these bland times.


"What I am trying to write about is true life. About work and management as they actually are."— Lucy Kellaway

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780273645092
  • Publisher: Financial Times/Prentice Hall Books
  • Publication date: 3/24/2000
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction.
1. Management Consultants.
I Wanna be a Consultant When I Grow Up. Don't Mind Me, I'm Just the Boss. Breakfast with McKinsey. Weinstock on Consultants. McKinsey Comes Down to Earth. The 80:20 Principle. Inside the Mind of the Consultant. The Gravy Train Stops. A Hug a Day. The Lady with the Lamp. The Happy Ending.

2. Fads.
Take Your Fad and Stuff It. The Change Myth. Missions: Full of Sound and Fury. How Much are You On? Badges and Boy Scouts. Breast Implants and the Meaning Thing. We are All Crazy Here. The Simple Truth about Knowledge. Whose Bright Idea was this? Dead Stakeholders. Passion Fashion.

3. Management Books.
Crazy ol' Tom Peters. The Four Wives of Tom Peters. The 2,500 year-old Guru. What do Managers do? Wolves and Weeding. Truck Driver, CEO. Customer Service in 108 Easy Steps. Management Journals Dumb Down. I Wanna be a Powerchick. F+M=P*R. Why I Love Business!

4. Jargon, Euphemism and Plain Flannel.
Buzzword Bingo. First, Trademark Your Buzzword. Involuntary Separation. Brains on Sticks. Dream On. Annual Reports and Bottom Sniffing. The Inner Team. Brilliant Stupidity. I Work for JP Morgan No Longer. Disownership. Lifelong Learning.

5. Training.
The Course from Hell. Let's Play Monopoly. Lay Off Survivor Sickness. Teenagers Head for the Boardroom. The Firm's Failure to Train Diana. From Concert Hall to Classroom. Loved the Course? Getthe Video. Strategic Resources and Chicken Soup. Massage Your Workmates. The Course from Heaven. Teamwork Pygmy Style.

6. Leadership.
Who'd be a CEO? Why CEOs Fail. Bland British Bosses. Ostrich Leaders. The Garden Pond Enthusiast. Emotional Stupidity. Prince Philip Shows the Way. Leadership in the Theatre of Operations. Tips from the Top. In Praise of Beauty Sleep. Are You a Lion or a Warthog? Forget Nice, it Doesn't Work.

7. Consumers.
Consumer Choice in Shades of Pastel. Bad Hair Day. Astound and Astonish Your Customers. . . .Go Further, Get Intimate. Guess What? People Don't Like Queueing. How to Get Free Money. Directories, Jane Speaking. Dear McDonald's, We Love You. The Joy of Customer Care. Customer Care Gone Berserk. Customers from Hell. The Experience Economy.

8. Men and Women.
Gender Diversity Improvement. Thank God I'm a Woman. Pregnancy and Office Etiquette. National Breast-feeding Awareness Week. Bad Management is in the Genes. Boys will be Boys (and So Will Girls). Two Women, One Audience. Confounded by the Office Affair. Sex Beyond Imagining. Boy-Boy-Girl-Girl. The Charm of the Badly Dressed Man.

9. Another Day in the Office.
Scary Truth about Laughter. Fun by Fiat. Switchboard Knows your Secrets. Secretaries and Dirty Work. In Praise of Wasting Time. Go Home on Time Day. Duvet Days. Management by Hanging About. Smoking can be Seriously Good for You. Dandruff and Lord Hanson. Truth is a Bitter Brew.

10. Managing at Home.
Manage with Mother. Trouble with the Non-Exec. Making a Meal of Family Life. Passionate about Your Investment Banker. Plumbers and Painters. Kaizen Your Kitchen. Defeated by Victory. Click on Kids. Take it Easy, Leave Work Late.

11. Stress, Health and Self-Help.
Stressed Out by the Stress Experts. Ode to a Screeching Nightingale. The Power Nap. Gym Etiquette. Control Freaks on Holiday. No Fatties, Smokers or Oldies Wanted. Misery of the Mentor. Mud Baths of Expenses. Tap the Power Within — or Burn Your Feet.

12. Office Design.
Don't Take My Desk Away, Please. Dangerous Side Effects of the No-Smoking Building. Secrets of the Boardroom Table. Futons and Fish Tanks. The New Curvy Look. Ensnared in the Corporate Cordon. Hard Truths about Sofas. Unisex Loos. Office Chairs.

Index.
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Preface

Introduction

A while ago I received a letter from an MBA student at Ghent University.

'Dear Lucy" she wrote. 'Would it be too much to write down your basic ideas of management? Our professor has set us the task of analyzing Lucy Kellaway's articles from the Financial Times.'

My first response was that ideas in the Ghent management faculty must be in pretty short supply. My second response was to wonder what exactly are my 'basic ideas' on management? My mind went alarmingly, embarrassingly blank. Where do you begin? It was a bit like being asked for basic ideas on life. However, after a bit of thought I came up with the following observations and generalities. They are, of course, glaringly obvious. But then management ideas are obvious. Any that aren't obvious tend to be wrong.

Rule 1
Management is one of the most difficult jobs going, and is harder now than ever because the challenges are greater.
Rule 2
Most people are bad at managing, some are very bad. Hardly anyone can do it well.
Rule 3
Good managers need to be both hard and soft, decent and ruthless, good at the big picture and at the small detail.
Rule 4
In view of the above, the market for management consultants, trainers, gurus, business schools and business books is expanding, apparently without limit.
Rule 5
While most of the management help industry is of dubious value, managers do need the experience and advice of wise outsiders. But to follow that advice blindly - as many companies do - is, of course, idiotic.
Rule 6
Any new management technique that comes with a catchphrase is suspect. It almost certainly will not suit the company inquestion, and even if it does, the management will probably fail to apply it properly.
Rule 7
It is hard to teach a middle-aged dog new tricks. People who are rotten communicators do not become better by virtue of having been on a course, or having read a book. Improving and changing is a long, painful slog.
Rule 8
People like security. They like to be told what to do. Empowerment and flat structures are over-rated.
Rule 9
All work is tedious for much of the time. If everyone accepts this, then so much the better.

That was the short answer. The long answer is this book, which is based on five years of writing a management column for the Financial Times.

In producing it, I am aware that I have broken another of my own rules. Over the years I have made good money scoffing and sneering at management books, and yet here I am producing one myself. Frequently I have complained that there are too many of them and managers are too busy managing to have any time to read them.

Let me try to extricate myself from this awkward position. THere is nothing wrong with a management book per se. Management is, after all, one of the most interesting and important subjects of all. What I dislike about most of them is that they are sold as the answer to your problems. Read this and you will be a good communicator. Read that and your profits will rise.

So in this collection I offer no tips. No formulas. No panaceas. No handy hints.

My second objection to management books is that they are unreadable, pseudo scientific, and make a meal out of the theory of management - which is really very simple. (The hard bit, of course, is actually doing it.) Here I offer no theories at all. No flow charts. No big words.

You may be wondering what that leaves if I have no theoriesand no tips. What it leaves is a set of prejudices.

You think it sounds unpromising? In my experience prejudices make for good reading. They either confirm your own, or they make you cross, either of which is better than nothing in these bland times. Above all what I am trying to write about is true life. About work and management as they actually are. What it is like to push the boulder up hill in the office - and at home, too.

Again and again I have found that it is the little things that make the difference. Management fads come and go: we tolerate teamwork, downsizing, re-engineering, 360-degree appraisal. We complain but eventually we fall into line. What we cannot tolerate is when, as a part of a cost-cutting exercise, they take away our car parking space, or our supplies of free coffee.

I have arranged the material into themes, and throughouthave been on the lookout for hogwash and pretension. I havefound enough to fill 10 books. (But don't worry. This is theonly one.)

Sometimes readers have complained that I am negative, sour, carping, cynical. I'm sorry about that. In fact I think managers are heroes. Given how hard I find it to issue a simple instruction to my cleaner, I am under no misapprehension. Writing about it is a lot easier than doing it.

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