“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” — Andrew Carnegie, American Businessman and Philanthropist

Why is it the case that in order to become a successful manager in the UK that one must embrace parochial miserableness, abject meanness and byzantine nastiness?

More to the point, why has management in the UK become a politically barren, ethically bereft and dehumanising game of intense mediocrity?

In recent interviews with managers, leaders and executives throughout the UK, I was informed on more than one occasion that the goal of most management – public or private sector – is the attainment of absolute mediocrity. Indeed, that the ideal natural-state of the business and its processes is one of permanent instability, stress and inefficiency. All of which is hidden underneath a barely discernible veneer of fake professionalism, dubious legality and prissy civility.

One of the curious aspects of contemporary management life in the UK is that intense inefficiency, boloney-based disorganisation and paranoia-fuelled abuse is seen as an aspirational goal, and that highly-ineffective, naturally-erratic and constantly-engaged managers don’t have time to think, never mind have time to organise themselves in order to be truly productive in any rational sense.

Peter Drucker once stated, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all”. That is one of the guiding principles in my professional role as strategist, leader and coach.

Now, we are no longer even at this level. Which just goes to show how far downhill we have come.

I work in business and IT. With engineers, administrators, managers and executives. I occasionally read blogs and forum posts related to my areas of interests.

A question appeared on a popular forum for Project Managers.

It asked, when it comes to successful Project Management, “what is more important, the right people or the right process?”

You get a lot of questions like that in IT.

It’s probably the same for other jobs.

To be fair, quite a few of the replies to the question were absurdly terse, mind-numbingly trite and achingly vacuous.

Other replies read like concatenations of fortune cookie quotes based on someone’s idealistic and flawed notion of management. To be expected in an age of digital-surfaces, immediacy and superficiality.

There were answers in favour of people over process, process over people and others that put “right process” and “right people” on an equal footing.

I didn’t get the impression that people were addressing the question from a position of knowledge and experience.

No one asked any questions.

No even the hint of one.

Though the obvious questions were there, staring at them in the face.

But no one asked…

  • What do you mean by “right”?
  • What do you mean by “right process”?
  • What do you mean be “right people”?
  • Why are you asking this question?
  • What do you hope to get out of this?

Everyone assumed that there was a common understanding about what “right”, “right people” and “right process” mean in a project context.

Because people didn’t ask the obvious questions, they couldn’t move on to the more subtle and substantial questions.

They couldn’t move upstream or downstream.

Wherever they stood their position was untenable.

They didn’t have the social skills, the creativity or the intelligence to step back from the question.

They were stuck in the trivial, the superficial, the hackneyed and the simplistic.

They answered with clichés, vagaries and baloney.

Therefore, what we had, was a long-life thread of ill-informed responses to a vague question.

It was if you’d asked a group of unthinking patriots what was better for the country, “the right people” or “the right political system”.

However, it goes deeper than that.

Politicians who are reduced to talking about rights and wrongs, without being able to pony up any rational explanations, are quite rightly derided for being shallow, conceited and removed.

In IT we think it’s a sign of considered professionalism.

However, regurgitating motivational slogans that are well passed their use by date is not professionalism.

The unquestioning subservience to trite, populist and unrealistic management dogma is not professionalism.

Acting as if project management were some bizarre super-hero Hollweird invention is not professionalism.

Needing to break everything down into right and wrong, good and bad, black or white, etc. is the height of arrogant superciliousness.

What is worse than arrogance or ignorance is when they go hand in hand. For me at least, it’s just not on.

Put it this way. If IT was an army, it wouldn’t be the professional modern army of today, but an army led by egocentric, socially inept and multiply-challenged incompetents, armed with just enough knowledge to be dangerous. The sort of army that would march a battalion of the “right people” to their certain death, or the sort of people who would see instrumental reason as being the “right process” and “right thinking”.

“Lions led by donkeys”.

Students of European history – say from 1914 to 1918 – might make the connections.

If you can’t define what you mean by “right”, you may as well be discussing the sex of angels.

If some people can’t even ask the obvious questions, then what the feck are they doing managing projects?

Never mind, life is too short to fret the inadequacies and excesses of IT.

As Lucius Seneca was want to say “A physician is not angry at the intemperance of a mad patient, nor does he take it ill to be railed at by a man in fever. Just so should a wise man treat all mankind, as a physician does his patient, and look upon them only as sick and extravagant”.

Many thanks for reading.

Martyn Richard Jones


29th December 2008




On the data side…

Do keep in touch. You can connect with me via LinkedIn and you can also keep up to date with my activities on Twitter (User handle @GoodStratTweet) and on my personal blog http://www.goodstrat.com (GoodStrat.com)

I am the manager of The Big Data Contrarians group on LinkedIn. Consider joining that group, if only for the critical thinking that it could potentially provoke.

You may also be interested in some other articles I have written on the subject of Data Warehousing.

Data Warehousing explained to Big Data friends – https://goodstrat.com/2015/07/20/data-warehousing-explained-to-big-data-friends/

Stuff a great data architect should know – https://goodstrat.com/2015/08/16/stuff-a-great-data-architect-should-know-how-to-be-a-professional-expert/

Big Data is not Data Warehousing – https://goodstrat.com/2015/03/06/consider-this-big-data-is-not-data-warehousing/

What can data warehousing do for us now – http://www.computerworld.com/article/3006473/big-data/what-can-data-warehousing-do-for-us-now.html

Looking for your most valuable data? Follow the money – http://www.computerworld.com/article/2982352/big-data/looking-for-your-most-valuable-data-follow-the-money.html