Friday, October 25, 2013

Ask Mr Manager #3

With the economy is disarray and unemployment rampant Mr Manager has once again been called upon for advice in not to just retain your job but even to improve your chance of promotion.  Of course many people see Machiavelli as amoral and evil, even though he was really just pointing out how to achieve and maintain power.  This is also true of Mr. Manager – business is business and in these troubled times success depends as much on perception as reality.  So the first step in your plan to succeed without breaking a sweat should start with visibility.

To achieve visibility requires speaking out, but not in praise of anything because any success no matter how modest will have dozens of people claiming the glory.  No – what you must do is speak out against any project or activity that is doomed from the outset.  Every organization has these and they are easy to spot.  Here is a list of candidates which you can predict will fail.  Opposing these or predicting failure is sure to mark you as a person of vision.

  1. Product with specifications greater than 1000 pages
  2. Projects requiring more than a couple of years to reach fruition
  3. Any team or morale building effort
  4. Any reengineering effort that requires multiple managers and processes
  5. Any new or innovative process

Of course there is always the remote possibility that one of these projects might actually limp to some sort of conclusion.  However, no project is ever clear of weak areas and things that didn’t turn out so well.  In that case you point these out with a shake of your head and say ”Well – that’s just what I expected”  This will reinforce your growing reputation as a visionary and brilliant leader.

Now no manager works alone or without competitors so at some point one of your competitors will have managed to have you put in charge of a doomed project staffed by zombies and cretins. Obviously your first task is to find a way to switch jobs but this is not always possible so you have two options.  First you can quickly isolate and fire the zombies and cretins but then a bloody massacre no matter how justified will not enhance your reputation unless you aspire to being seen as Ivan the Terrible.  So the most viable course of action is to identify the worst of the worst and begin building their reputation, by making them employee of the month, bragging about their immense value to your project.  Your purpose here is to make them seem so useful and valuable that some unsuspecting fellow manager will “steal them away from you”.  This is especially rewarding if the manager who steals this “valuable” asset is a competitor because once he steals your best player he will have just infected his own project with this failure virus.

But many times your fellow managers will fail to fall for this ploy so you must resort to a tried and true strategy commonly known as “kick them upstairs”.  That is you do everything possible to have these losers promoted off of your team and into a position where they can drive your competing managers into gibbering idiots.  This is a highly effective strategy and widely used which tends to explain the disappointing performance of many large corporations and the federal government.

But don’t make the mistake of ever giving any of these zombies and cretins a bad performance review – NO – they must be given the highest praise because otherwise they will be chained to you forever.  If you cannot find a way to remove these cretins from your staff then place them in key support positions for projects belonging to competing managers.  This offers the potential of making your project look better than your competitors because you aren’t any worse than anyone else.  As a last resort bundle these losers up and put them in charge of the United Way Campaign.

The normal corporation is composed of managers who are constantly searching for ways to make themselves appear to be highly productive hard driving team players.   So naturally your objective is to make yourself appear to be a brilliant and a major contributor to the success of the team.  This is best accomplished by remembering that in the large corporation form always is more important than substance.  Or to put it another way volume always trumps brevity, because as everyone knows any document longer than a few pages will not be read by any manager or executive.  This means that all of your reports should be jammed with irrelevant facts and graphs and if you can include some very complicated equations even better.  Then your report should be packaged in a binder with a cover letter that describes in subtle detail why everything in this report is self evident to any manager as capable as the addressee.  This will ensure no one ever reads it while demonstrating your penetrating intellect and incisive analytical abilities.

As you climb the corporate ladder it is important that you give the impression that you are not only a hard worker and key player but that you are also a strategic thinker.  This is more easily accomplished than you might think.  It is important that you associate yourself with important sounding jobs that have no possibility of a measured result while avoiding those that include names like Operations, Budget, Accounting, or Quality.  Instead volunteer for assignments that have Strategic, Worldwide, Market, or Planning in their title.  Projects with these in their title have little chance of accomplishing anything while drawing the attention of upper management.  Your value to these projects can be increased if you carry a full briefcase home every night giving the impression that you are slaving over this project.  Of course your reports should be lengthy and filled with confusing statistics. 

If you have ever wondered how some upper level manager, who can’t even order a Starbucks Coffee without assistance, got his job – well now you know – it is all about how things look rather than what they are.  Mr Manager is pleased to provide you another lesson in how to achieve success without actually having produced anything.  

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