The 7 Deadly Sins of Management

In 1987 when Japan’s hot breath was being felt on the back of the neck of U.S. automakers, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Its intent was to inspire U.S. organizations to do what Japanese companies had been doing since the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers founded the Deming Prize in 1950.  The Deming Prize had inspired Japanese companies to test themselves against a rigorous set of best-practice management standards.

I’ll skip the detailed history lesson and cut to the chase.

“We have a problem Houston!” The problem is that most U.S. organizations suffer from the 7 Deadly Sins of Management, which I elaborate on in detail in Business at the Speed of Now (pages 28-38). The 7 Deadly Sins of Management are:

  1. Lack of clear direction
  2. No line of sight
  3. Unclear accountability
  4. Inconsistent language
  5. Poor issue transparency
  6. Insufficient resources
  7. Inadequate tools/skills

Leadership is about vision, setting tone, inspiring people and working from a deeply held set of values. If you want to read the best blogger I know on leadership read Dan Rockwell’s Leadership Freak.

But the work of management is to prioritize and organize work, set up measures, connect people, eliminate fear, communicate progress, and make sure the right resources are in the right place at the right time.  I am sorry to say the work of management is tedious and detailed work. And because of that a lot of us are guilty of not wanting to do that work. Heh, life is short and who wants to spend it working in the weeds.

However, by avoiding the detailed work of management, the 7 Deadly Sins of Management propagate in our organizations. But the 7 Deadly Sins of Management come at a heavy price because it causes our people  to disengage.

There are several reasons our people can’t engage.  They can’t engage because they don’t understand where the business is going. They can’t engage because they don’t see their part. They can’t engage because they don’t know what they are accountable for and they don’t understand the language of the business. To top it off  our employees suffer from the fear of making problems visible, inadequate resources and tools, and weak training.

It’s a wonder our people even show up to work at all!

Of course I am being dramatic. But what I am saying here is more commonly true than not. Our people don’t engage and can’t engage because management is not doing its complete job.

Management’s job in this Mass Customization world is to enable people to act on every opportunity every time in order to meet customer needs. For that to be possible, we have to eliminate the sins that prevent our people from being engaged.

Let’s sin no more.

  1. John: Excelllent comments on the 7 Deadly Sins of Management. The first task is for management to acknowledge that these sins are in their organization. Recognintion is the first step to understand the actions necessary to enable the organization to meet customers needs. One great leader I had the opportunity to work with recognized this in her organization. She recognized her role was to provide the environment(Consistent language, transparency), provide vision to the organiation (direction and line of site) and tools/resources for all associates to empower the organization to satisfy the customer.

    Ted Barber

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