Are you a ‘manager’ ? What value do you actually bring to your business ?

As a follow-up to my previous post

What business value do ‘managers’ bring to the business…? 

Of course, in small scale, privately owned businesses, managers or owners are there to assume full responsibility for the business, to define the overall business models, to define the overall strategies, and to steer and participate in the day-by-day operations towards those strategies. And to take full responsibility for the outcomes, including any externalities.  

But in large organisations, what does the typical mid-level manager, with a multitude of mgmt-levels above, and a few levels below, do…?

 Hardly is he/she contributing to any business strategies, hardly is he/she contributing to any real customer (i.e. business) value… How often do these mid-level manager’s actually meet with real customers….?  How often do these mid-level managers come up with ‘the perfect solution for the customer’…? 

 Instead, the mid-level manager in large organisations is a police officer, responsible for that all the predefined internal corporate processes – relevant or not – are executed flawlessly.

Whether these processes make the business more competitive or not is besides the point –  the responsibility of the manager – his/her role is to monitor process compliance, i.e to police the adherence to internal processes. 

In our contemporary attempts to become more ‘lean’ in our businesses, here’s where there is a lot of ‘fat’ to cut away from the organizational overhead: highly paid managers that are fundamentally just overhead, since they do not actively contribute to real business value.  

Instead of terminating the guys in the trenches, those who have the ability to provide real customer value, when the numbers go red, why don’t our businesses cut out the mid-level managers, whose only job role is to monitor ‘execution’….? 


About swdevperestroika

High tech industry veteran, avid hacker reluctantly transformed to mgmt consultant.
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5 Responses to Are you a ‘manager’ ? What value do you actually bring to your business ?

  1. So, how *should* it be? Let’s assume an organization of about 400 000 people. How would a good management structure be designed? How many managers and/or management layers are needed for optimum efficiency? And, if you (perhaps incorrectly) assume that managers also try to look after the good of their direct reports, how many direct reports can one “manager” have?

  2. Mikael, my point is that the 20th century organizational model, (taylorism) with humongous hierarchical organizations with 100’s of thousands of employees, and 100’s of mgrs, is obsolete. The shareholder value based financial model is obsolete. Tomorrow’s successful organisations are like special forces: small, cohesive, highly skilled teams, with common objectives, capable of anything, without massive processes or mgmt governance.

  3. mlewerth says:

    But that “point” is hardly obvious from your original post. And I’m not even sure you’re right about the “humongous” organizations being obsolete, are there any indications to this? Have any large organizations really started to crumble and their place being taken by smaller “special forces”? Will perhaps not our increasing globalization (for lack of a better word) require large organizations? Just speculating… however I do fully agree that the “shareholder value based” financial model is obsolete (or is very quickly becoming so) – it was never viable in the longer term, it will implode.

  4. Mikael, IMO, the world is dominated by the “New Public Management” principle, i.e where everything is measured at a tayloristic scale, and management is done ‘by the numbers’, without understanding of the underlying complexities. I.e ‘mgmt by spreadsheets’. Do we really need all these ‘spreadsheet-monitors’ in order to provide customer value…?

  5. mlewerth says:

    I agree, and I see this every day – especially the point on “…without understanding of the underlying complexities”. My point/question was more on how to govern a large organization more efficiently than using all these managers. And in a way, the several layers of management encourages “management by spreadsheets” – how else would all these layers get their information that they think they should act upon? So, just because I’m interested, given that large organizations will continue to exist (humor me here) – how should they be governed and controlled for maximum efficiency? (Or is this impossible.)

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