Management 101

Nov 3rd
Posted by shambo  as Management


Let me say this about that.

What is it that makes a good manager?¬† Better question ……. what makes a great manager?¬† In my fourty years in the work place, I have worked for a few good ones, one or two great ones and a¬†boat load of crappy ones.¬† Most Americans believe that management can be taught as a skill.¬†¬†“Management” is taught in most universities, and in a few,¬†the program¬†is the platform of the entire university – like Harvard, for example.¬† If you have a MBA from Harvard, most people would have you characterized as a person very likely to be a…¬†¬†¬† successful manager of people.

Don’t believe it.

Management is like driving an automobile.¬† You can be taught to drive a car, but you probably will never win the Indy 500.¬† Take all the management courses you want and you will learn all about the “tools” of management.¬† However, using the tools skillfully is as much art as science.¬†

I remember my first job in management.¬† It was 1971 and I was promoted to “Chief of Production Control” in the printed circuit manufacturing division of an aerospace company in Cape Canaveral.¬† The job was highly technical, but I had an engineering degree from one of the best engineering programs in the country.¬† I was prepared.

The employees I was assigned to manage were an eclectic lot of engineers, technicans, clerks and factory workers.  I had taken a number of management courses in undergraduate school and was enrolled in night school pursuing a Masters Degree in Management.  I was prepared.


My first opportunity to excel as a newly minted manager came a couple of weeks after my promotion.  My department had workers on two shifts, so I made it a habit to work at least part of the 4:00pm Рto Р12:00 midnight shift each day.  I had worked the day shift, left for some dinner, and returned to the plant around 8:00pm that night.  When I arrived, it was dinner time for the second shift so all the workers had left the production line to have their dinner.  I decided to join them and made my way to the break room.  As I approached, I heard loud screaming, cheering and people pounding on tables.  I opened the door, entered the room and it instantly became quiet as a tomb.  It was like someone had farted during a session of Congress.

No one looked at me.  They all were looking at their food.  And no one was looking at the stack of one dollar bills at the end of the table.

I asked what was going on.¬† Not surprisingly, no one answered.¬† Finally, one guy happened to glance at the microwave oven.¬† Microwave ovens were a relatively new invention in 1971, so I didn’t think much of it until the¬†entire room¬†began staring at the microwave.¬† I walked over to the oven and opened the door.¬† It looked like someone had performed an autopsy on a small animal and then cooked the body parts.¬† I’ve never seen anything so grotesque.

Money on the table Рbody parts in the microwave.  My formal management training had not adequately prepared me for this scenario.

Finally, I coaxed one guy to spill the beans.  It seems that the new microwave invention had given the 2nd shift an opportunity to invent a new game of chance involving the resident Palmetto bugs.  A Palmetto bug is like a cockroach on steroids and inhabits all food service areas in Florida.  They are big enough to attack cats and they stink like hell.  

It seemed that the¬†game was to catch a ‘Palmetto bug’ and put it in the oven.¬† The timer was set to maximum¬†and the oven turned on.¬† Each better waged a one dollar bet on the exact number of seconds¬†it took for the giant cockroach to explode.¬† You can’t make this stuff up.

What in the hell would a ‘great manager’ do?¬† I thought about every management course I had ever taken and came up blank.¬† Fire everyone – write up reprimands – forget the whole thing – I had no idea what to do.¬† Finally, I thought about one of the best managers¬† had ever known and decided to¬†follow that¬†role model¬†- my Mom.

I instructed that all the money be returned to their original owners.  I assigned the last guy who won a bet to clean the microwave.  I reminded them of the penalties regarding gambling on company property and the murder of small animals.  I then sent them back to work without finishing their dinner. 

Not elegant, but effective.  The Harvard Graduate School of Business could use a little of this type of practicality.

Thanks, Mom.

And, that’s all I have to say about that.



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