Management by magazine

Lately his Esteemed Baldness, Larry, has hired business gurus to help with his 'thousand days of change 'visioning' thing over at City Hall. (I hold a certain distaste for people 'verbing' nouns like that, but I will forebear digression -- just this once.) I suspect this exercise to be an outgrowth of that little book about 'corporate excellence and change' that he read, Execution: The Discipline of getting things done. He got so excited he publicly urged all the city councillors to read the sucker.

I suspect the mayor's infatuation with this book may be a, ummm, textbook variation on management by magazine. As excited as he is, he treads a very well-worn path. I'm a very old coyote. Old enough to have seen a buncha business cycles, a buncha companies and a buncha hotshot executives in action. And y'know, all of 'em seem to blather on faddily about cultures of excellence and paradigm shifts and methods for ensuring organizational quality. All sounding strangely repetitive after awhile.

Remember The Rules? A book of instructions that, if followed to the letter, would allow a women to snag herself a ma-yun? Heard it mentioned much lately? I thought not. It's pretty much the female dating equivalent of business guru's books on corporate change.

I'm gonna heretically suggest that this may be because so many captains of industry don't have a hot clue what the fuck they're really supposed to be doing to make their companies successful. Sure, they've gotten the MBAs (or in Larry's case, gone to Algonquin College) and they've learned to project that take-charge outer confidence that investors and voters love, but they're really as clueless as the rest of us.

Having aligned themselves with the people they believe to be the smart money, they don't want to admit that their fates depend as much as they do upon dumb luck. I can almost guarantee you that every rich guy whom I've ever visited of a night to tip over their trashcan, fondly thinks they've succeeded because they're such darn smart businessmen. They just don't get how much dumb luck is involved, and don't want to know. Because that would mean they're schnooks like the rest of us, not steely-eyed captains of their own fates.

Which leads us to management by magazine. At some level, everybody's insecure. Everybody's looking for a guru. Everybody wants to believe that someone else can tell 'em - preferably in fewer than eleven chapters - all of the rules for success in life and business. Because they don't think they know 'em themselves, and they find it heartening to think that someone else can tell 'em. A ton of writers are out there, willing to feed 'em that same old recycled bullshit, too.

Bad news: Today's guru, as soon as the next hot flavour-of-the-minnit comes out, is tomorrow's has-been. Guys who write these books are just as clueless as the people who buy 'em. But at least they're gettin' paid publishing royalties for it...

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