3 reasons why smart people in organisations do stupid things

Today I was trying to explain why organisations sometimes almost compell their managers to do stupid things – or certainly why it might appear that way to people further down the chain.

1. The glance analysis – the solution to someone else’s problem can often seem obvious. That can be due to the person not seeing the wood for the trees – but also can be from not really taking the time to understand local conditions before passing judgement.

I once had to endure a conversation from a person from Melbourne (nothing against people from Melbourne, on the whole I have found them very nice…). He was seeking to make some changes to the way an industry association operated in WA – and make a takeover bid for all the other related organisations in WA – and run it all from 3000 miles away. He then also proceeded to tell us how little we knew about how to run such an organisation. It was one of the first dinners I’ve been to where 4 or 5 normally mild mannered people were ready to belt someone they have never met before.

2. The flick pass – email management (or mis-management) can allow for easy flick pass of a task (generally with a comment attached adding to the workload). People in management roles are often so time poor that the constant barrage of email encourages sending an email onto someone else rather than stopping the email and really thinking about whether the task should be done. Whilst it may not win you friends, sometimes it is worth asking the question of the sender, “If I simply couldn’t get to this due to other commitments, what would be the downside?”. Or send them a quote for an hour of your time….

3 Conflicting goals – ever wondered what is the real goal the firm is interested in? Generally there is a terrible conflict between organisation goals eg. growth versus profit now…

So, what do you think? Add a comment below about some of the dumb things you have seen organisations do to their people (or their customers…)

7 thoughts on “3 reasons why smart people in organisations do stupid things

  1. Hi Justin, can’t resist commenting on this one. Today, there needs to be a book written on “Stupid Management – Buy This Book and Do the opposite!” Too many managers are asking their people to do things without real thought about the strategy or the competency of their people. It really is S.T.U.P.I.D. And email, don’t get me started. How many people have had real training on Outlook? Fantastic IT departments create stupendous business cases to implement new software … and don’t factor in effective training. and that is the STUPIDEST management of all!
    Ok, I feel better now!

  2. I have to slightly agree with billjw… the problem we face these days i feel is that when procedure minded senior managers attempt to burdan company actions with narrow cumbersome rules… employees get confused and then the customer suffers WHAT YOU ASK ??? Lets use organisations that provide a service for instance as an example (this being becuase nearly every business provides a service to the customer) Now.. those companies whose purpose it is to provide a service for their own sake rather than for the sake of the customer (eg local & state government) can afford these stupid burdensome rules since the customer is not the priority … The managers in these places can get away with it BUT SHOULDN’T (now bear with me im getting to managerial idiocracy in a minute..)

    Business Aggressiveness, flexibility and creativity, however govern innovation and growth. An effectice manager must thrive on uncertainty and ambiguity.. I have not met to many managers around like that.. very rare.

    If you have seen any around lately … Id like to apply for a job !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Nick, thanks for the post, and I like your tilt at customer focus. Even government agencies are now starting more to focus very much on customers, but typically have the most conflicting priorities due to legislative and reporting requirements.

    Add to that the tension between:
    – centralisation and decentralisation
    – command and control versus empowerment
    – front of house (customer facing) versus back of house (support and administration)
    – empire building and flattening structures

    And you have a recipe for a bit of fun! Managing in that environment is a tough ask…. but is a challenge that can be met.

    Bill’s suggestion is good, so I’ll add a category called Stupid Management to this blog, should make for some interesting posts!

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