Saturday, 29 October 2011

Management, manpower and manholes

My editor at The Executive asked me to write something about management. The brief was manifestly short but effective enough. He said “let it have humour, let it be brief”.

Sounded manageable enough. Or not? My initial reaction was to work on it as asked, then on second thoughts, while fretting at the command, I thought of sending him just a briefer-than-his-brief article. Not sure if that would have tickled him pink. But the cheeky article was going to be entitled “Management”; the whole article was going to say “management”. Yes I think that would have been the most humorous thing to write about this subject. To be honest I find anything that is written seriously about management to be unbelievably baffling and full of unwitting but effective humour. Humour by non-design, which I imagine is the best managed humour.

Ask anyone who runs a business to explain in plain English the fundamentals of management and he/she/it will look at you vaguely and worryingly. The gurus of the management world might trail off a few mantras and all manner of expositions but the man in the high or low street or in top positions will be stumped. By the way do we now still run businesses? With recessions rampant and all-pervading crises and highfaluting defaulters I doubt if anyone does any running. It’s more like walking, or propping your business on its surely but sorely disintegrating crutches.

Regarding my editor’s article request I then reflected further and stopped my brief, scantily researched article from being sent. I love my job as contributor to The Executive and I find the editor more than affable and greatly on the ball. So why get myself fried or fired? That could be called something like management by firing squad; or hara-kiri for a two-word article. And I find this magazine quite a great shake. “I shot myself in the left foot and right by not submitting proper copy to editor” could be the title of the article had I been fired or told bluntly to desist from writing for this publication.

So no I was more than resolved not to follow that terrible path to ignominy and perfidy and extinction or exile from The Executive. The ex-writer of The Executive hardly sounds good on any CV especially in these tough-to-manage times.

So I now have the daunting task of still not getting myself fired: the task ahead is simple enough. I must, by all means available, manage to convince the management of The Executive that I can manage an article about management: and the article must make people laugh, snigger or smile instead of read, ponder and understand next to naught.

Consider this: this is the first of a series of articles which are going to be penned by me (unless I manage to fall onto my own spiral of mis-managed failure) and not by some other upstart who writes like me or better than me. If another contributor is given the same brief as me I promise I will muster enough strength and organise enough pickets and will manage to pick and settle fights with all and sundry rivals. I will also make it my own mantra-turned-into-tangibility to knock off by gun, musket, cannon, hemp, fingers, toes, claws or whatever instrument is at hand (even hand grenades could come in handy) to murder in the most vile way any intruder who happens to be able to write anything about management.

That must have been the longest, least instructive, hardly inspired, most entangled piece of introduction in the history of management and writing. Let me now most intelligently discuss “management”.

I do not know why this happens but whenever there is a word that could cause some trouble, there in it, in full force and fully frontally, lies “man”. Take man out of management and all you end up with is “age” and a few other letters. Why oh why do women not complain that men have to manage while women dictate and run everything smoothly? Men run everything down from economies to stock exchanges and have done so ever since a naked Eve baked an apple pie and managed singlehandedly to get part of the apple stuck in man’s throat and all humanity to have to toil, trouble and work and discuss and formulate best management practices.

Some wit in medieval times must have said: if woman was meant to be a dishwasher, man must have been inventive enough to devise a machine to wash those soiled dishes. Man invented, or marketed heavily, the dishwasher circa the same age that woman rebelled, burned her bra, became equal to man and did manage to get most men to cooperate and wash, rinse, dry or at least stack dishes. I have no clue who said the pithy words about dish-washing: if I had management skills I’d get my inexistent but obviously sex-neutered secretary to check out who the sage (or sages) was but as I lack these rudimentary skills I will further desist from asking or from doing it myself. Google be damned.

Here we now have a few important management cases which are worth noting. In medieval times if you were a woman and you complained even internally to yourself about your husband you would be tried or lashed or disembowelled. Even if the husband had tied you to his manor fence, the chances were that an ecclesiastical judge would magically sprout next to you, untie you and take you by the nose straight into your own fiery cauldron of bubbling newt legs and batty bat’s tongues.

Now if said wife was sadly cast to her sizzling perdition and if said (and sadder) husband could not find any other woman to wed, his manor would soon turn into a terribly mismanaged one. Without his wife to manage the children, the servants and slaves and the adjacent farm with its various chicks, capons and pheasants and other pleasantly feathered friends, the entire manor would soon end up in a state of utter chaos. Job losses would follow and then famine. Slaves and workers would revolt and the man would end up penniless and chased by creditors and his ex-employees. Management lesson: assets are not to be tied uselessly when they can be more productive. Mini lesson: do not get any outsiders like the ecclesiastical judge to interfere in your affairs. Consultants might be good but if they give bad advice the effect can be lethal.

Thankfully years later woman (now look at that word: even what we call the female sex has a man or a male lurking maniacally in it)) took control of her life, freed herself of the chains of slavery and fought to be on equal footing with her spouse. All of a sudden we had two managers for the manor and ended up with all manner of madness. Thank heavens the erring judge who cast errant women into boiling pots was also discarded and so life without torture by religious zealots became easier for everyone to manage.

As one famed consultant guru really quipped : “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” That’s Peter F. Drucker talking so I imagine we could accept it as a bit more authoritative than my words.

Now after showing off my knowledge of management savants, and what they said, I think I have said enough about management and will send this to my editor. In his patience and his charity I truly trust. Either that or this poor article will end up going down the drain: down the terrible manhole that manages all human effluvia and detritus.

This article first appeared in The Executive magazine

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