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Oops! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time and Money (And What To Do Instead)

Book Review: Avoid management malpractice and find better ways to guide your people

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  • Written by  Joe Frederick
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time And Money (And What To Do Instead). By Aubrey C. Daniels, 169 pp., Performance Management Publications. OOPS! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time And Money (And What To Do Instead). By Aubrey C. Daniels, 169 pp., Performance Management Publications.

Oops! 13 Management Practices That Waste Time And Money (And What To Do Instead), examines 13 common, almost universal management practices and gives readers insights into why some of these practices are often ineffective, obsolete, and a waste of both time and money. As businesses try to create greater results,  “faster with fewer,” “more with less,” and “better than ever,” evaluating the effects of these 13 practices in your bank can help remove barriers to performance and substitute better methods for achieving success.

The proverbial “road to hell” and finding the exits

Every organization is full of dysfunctional practices with good intentions that do not translate into good results. Some of these produce the opposite result for which they were intended.
But just because these practices are not wholly effective, doesn’t deter their widespread use, according to the author. The reasons for the acceptance are that many of these practices are “conventional wisdom”; the result of years of practiced folklore of unscientific managerial applications used over time that make them safe and familiar, even though wrong. Warren Buffet described this in defining the “institutional imperative”—“The behavior of peer companies—whether they are expanding, acquiring, setting executive compensation, or otherwise—will be mindlessly imitated.”  These 13 practices are not immune.
What separates Daniels’ new book from other books on the same topic is the use of the applied science of behavioral management. The author is a clinical psychologist, and holds a master’s and a Ph.D. in psychology. In the first chapter, “What All Managers Need to Know About Behavior,” the author describes in just a few pages the science of behavioral management; positive and negative reinforcement; and how it relates to human performance. You’ll be surprised in spots; it isn’t always what you already know or think it is.

Daniels is careful to give the reader definitions of  common terms, and he covers the consequences and effects of properly managed human behavior as the basis for critiquing the 13 practices. A valuable take away is the author’s statement: “Positive reinforcement is the most powerful interpersonal concept known and it is also the most misunderstood and misused.”

Daniels then describes each of the 13 practices; how they were designed to work; how they often work in practice; and what to do to make them more effective—and when to replace them with behavioral-based management structures which better meet objectives and goals.

Many of the 13 practices have many unintended and undesirable consequences. The author states “there is no system of management organization that employees cannot defeat”. Using behavior management systems suggested as alternatives for the 13 practices will help organizations accomplish the objectives they were designed to achieve.

Some of these practices have been addressed in length in other material. Chapter 9, “Overvaluing Smart, Talented People,” was the subject of Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. In Jack, Straight from the Gut, Fortune Magazine’s Manager of the Century, Jack Welch gives support as well as disagreement with Daniels in Chapter 2, “Stretch Goals”; Chapter 3, “Performance Appraisals”; Chapter 4, “Ranking”; Chapter 10, “Budget Process”; and Chapter 11, “Promoting People No One Likes.” The benefits of Daniels’ book include its brevity, at 169 pages, and its suggestions for improvement after evaluating each of the 13 poor practices. None of the chapters with recommendations exceed 13 pages, which makes Oops a very easy read.

A closer look at some key chapters

That’s my general take on the book, but it’s worthwhile to go further into several sections.

Chapter 10, “Budget Process” is particularly universal. Daniels points out that we put managers into a no-win situation. If a budget isn’t fully deployed, wastefully or not, budget cuts in the future are certain. Both management and employees know how to play the budget game. Managers know to request far more than needed; superiors demonstrate “management” by approving some, but not the entire request; and both sides walk away with a “victory.”

The chapter is summarized with a quote from a 12-year-old named Naomi, “If you want a kitten, start by asking for a horse”.

Chapter 12 talks of downsizing. Daniels says that good times make incompetence more acceptable. He addresses the twin points of view of people being resources to be managed and the view of people being a cost to be cut. He begins the chapter with a quote from Peter Drucker: “It is only when the tide is out that you can see who is swimming naked.”

Chapter 13, “Mergers, Acquisitions and Other Forms or Reorganization,” reminded me of a conversation with a midsized bank holding company executive whose organization was implementing a successful merger-and-acquisition strategy. Tongue in cheek, he described the strategy as “acquiring, good, solid performing banks and bringing them down to our level of performance.” The author gives some helpful suggestions to avoid anticipated problems associated with change.

Good beginning to better management

Daniels’ book is full of performance paradoxes, corporate contradictions, and ironic initiatives that would fill many volumes of the cartoon strip “Dilbert.” You will catch yourself using many of these practices, if you manage people. This will probably be because that’s the way you were taught or encouraged to manage.

Thus, the recommendation sections, with each of the 13 practices, are a great place to begin planning positive changes. Reading this book will help you achieve greater results from the people you manage, or at least find far cheaper ways to anger, alienate, and annoy them, using less time.

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