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Doubt, Conformity, and “Hamburger Management”

Doubt, Conformity, and “Hamburger Management”

When you write an article on a topic, it’s traditional to start with the problem, explain the causes next, then move into offering a solution. On the Slow Leadership site this week, I took things more or less in the opposite order, starting on Monday with part of the solution, giving my views on the reasons for the problem mid-week, and finally explaining the problem itself on Friday. This wasn’t intentional. Each article was conceived as a separate piece. It was only when I reviewed them for this posting that I noticed the reversed order.

So, let’s start with Friday’s post and the problem itself. The idea for Slow Leadership came from the slow food movement: a world-wide grouping of people seeking to re-establish quality in our food against the pressures of all that fast food has come to stand for—cheap ingredients, masses of chemical additives, limited menus, and even more limited taste and nutritional value. There are close comparisons to be made with many of today’s conventional management styles: the same emphasis on whatever is quickest, cheapest, simplest, and most likely to turn a quick profit, regardless of whether it is any good for human beings in the longer term. That was the subject of Hamburger Management Revealed: a review of three recent news stories giving evidence of the practical effects of Hamburger Management in action.

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It is a basic belief of Slow Leadership that most people truly want to do good work. Sure, there are some lazy bums, but they are far from being that common. Good work is satisfying, interesting, and makes you feel good when you have finished it. That’s why being forced into cutting corners and skimping on quality demeans everyone involved. In Authoritarians Need Conformists, I explored the idea that organizations build up “scar tissue” from botched attempts to deal with mistakes and problems. In time, there are so many rules and procedures around from all these past hurts that the organization becomes stiff and rigid. So sweep all the unnecessary rules away! Easier said than done, because there are two powerful—and linked—groups of people in nearly all corporations who work hard to retain them: conformists and authoritarians. Conformists feel safe being told what to do. Authoritarians feel big when they can do the telling.

Is your organization suffering from hardening of its arteries? Is the life blood of open communication and personal freedom to do one’s job unmolested becoming clotted and clogged as it tries to move through the veins of the business? Don’t just blame the authoritarians in positions of power. Blame those below them who accept the constant imposition of petty rules, and substitute compliance for true performance.

And so back to Monday and the solution to these issues—or part of it.

We all need doubt. It’s the driving force behind change, creativity, and independence of thought of every kind. Authoritarians and conformists—no surprises here—much prefer faith in fixed dogmas, including those of management: all the “truths” taught in MBA programs and hallowed by years of mindless repetition. In In Praise of Doubt . . . and Middle Managers, I offered two ideas. Firstly that doubt, in all its forms, should be fostered and nurtured wherever it can be found. And, secondly, that the worst place to look for creativity and new ideas is at the top of the organization. Those who have made it that far typically have absolutely no doubt about the value of preserving current system. After all, it brought them to the top, didn’t it? It must be good. The best place to look for creativity is, in fact, in the usually rather despised and neglected ranks of middle managers. These good people are not yet heavily invested in any system. They are much closer to the real needs of the organization. They haven’t given up their doubts about what is done today (nor about the supposed infallible wisdom of their boss’s way of doing things). Best of all, they have enough experience to see what needs to be done and direct their creativity to the right spots.

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There you have it. We are suffering from an epidemic of Hamburger Management: styles of leadership that focus on what is cheap, quick, and generates most short-term profit. The result is shoddy business, shoddy goods and services, and shoddy conditions for those who must work in these businesses. Because of the emphasis on doing things quickly, and never sparing the time to think things through properly, such organizations suffer from hardening of their arteries and a build up of ill-thought-out, hastily-imposed rules dreamt up in a hurry when things go wrong. Their management ranks become dominated by authoritarians and conformists, each group needing the other to operate. And a good part of the solution is to encourage doubt and cherish creative middle managers, who are not yet tainted with obedience to the Hamburger Management regime. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman, and a retired business executive, in that order. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his other articles at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to build a civilized place to work and bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership and life.

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Last Updated on October 15, 2019

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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1. Make a list of your goal destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

3. Write down your goals clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule your to-dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Review your progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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