Mar 30, 2014

McKinsey proves that today's management culture has a long way to go

The first issue of the McKinsey Quarterly for 2014 was entitled, “Shaping the future of manufacturing.” Proof that management culture, however, is still rooted in the past, is made plain in the article “Bad to great: The path to scaling up excellence.” Not every article in this issue is backward: several are worth reading. But if this one got past the editor, McKinsey has problems.

In “Bad to great,” the authors ask what to do with problem employees. Who are bad employees?

·      Employees engaging in “destructive behavior -- selfishness, nastiness, fear, laziness, or dishonesty.”

·      Salespeople who are “tardy, unhelpful, uncooperative, discourteous to customers, or unproductive.”

·      Hourly workers like those who stole equipment worth a total of a million dollars every year from their employer.

·      Subordinates like the nurse who, when the doctor said, ‘Nurse, draw this man’s blood,’ she replied, ‘Why don’t you do it yourself?’”

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In a culture where management labels people "bad" without understanding why they behave as they do, improvement will never stick. It’s true that a few employees will resist change or engage in disruptive behavior. Some can be persuaded to at least give change a chance, and some will eventually be helped to find jobs elsewhere. They’re not bad people. They just can’t adopt the rules of a changed workplace culture.

This article’s authors are from Stanford: Huggy Rao is a professor of organizational behavior and human resources and Robert Sutton is a professor in management science and engineering. Their book, Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less, has been excerpted for the article. Maybe the excerpt is not representative of the whole book. To be fair, later in the excerpt, they do come up with some alternatives to firing “bad” people.

What bothers me is not that someone has written a wrongheaded article. It is that a consulting firm influencing the largest, most powerful, companies believes an article like this reflects “shaping the future of manufacturing.” If this is a product of McKinsey’s culture, even if some of its consultants understand lean at its best, lean thinking faces worse barriers than I realized. And if this represents the current thinking at Stanford, we are making little progress. Can’t say I’m surprised, but I am disappointed.

1 comment:

WVPE said...

Great one.. Thanks for sharing it

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