Putting Things Back In Their Place
A few critical lines need to be drawn.
Quote of the Moment
The simple truth is that you cannot simultaneously dedicate yourself to making untold fortunes for a giant corporation and to championing a social good.
| Caitlin Flanagan is writing about Sheryl Sandberg, but the insight is general. And could be raised like a flag, and waved.
There is a fundamental break between organizations that put the business (specifically, return on investment to shareholders) ahead of all other considerations. Instead, we need a well-ordered humanism, to which companies should be subordinated.
A well-ordered humanism does not begin with itself, but puts things back in their place. It puts the world before life, life before man, and the respect of others before love of self.
This is the lesson that the people we call “savages” teach us: a lesson of modesty, decency and discretion in the face of a world that preceded our species and that will survive it.
| Claude Lévi-Strauss (cited in A Well-Ordered Humanism And The Future Of Everything).
In Can we manage without managers?, Michele Zanini responds to The Economist's retro arguments from Why companies need middle managers (subtitle: Organisations embrace flat hierarchies at their peril). The Economist starts with this, just so you are prepared:
Every large business has a boss and minions, who do most of the work. What comes between the corner office and the shop floor is a matter of managerial preference. Some firms’ organisational charts are towering mille-feuilles, with staff piled into rigid hierarchies stuffed with assorted supervisors. More fashionable of late has been the pancake organigram: fewer layers of workers reporting to a smaller cadre of chieftains. As appealing as such “flat” organisations might seem, the thinning of managerial ranks comes at great cost.
Zanini distills the article’s arguments:
1. Flatter hierarchies will create a "leadership vacuum [that] risks being filled by petty tyranny."
2. Models like Holacracy may work for small operations, but "clearly won't do for a Unilever or Goldman Sachs."
3. If you remove layers, you'll end up ovewhelming people at the top: "Not every Tesla factory hand is going to seek their annual appraisal from Mr Musk."
4. Supervising people is a core leadership function in the organization, so multiple of layers "means those in charge of managing lots of people have had experience managing fewer people before."