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Why We Should Put an End to “Hamburger Management”

Why We Should Put an End to “Hamburger Management”

Hamburger Management is a shoddy, debased version of real leadership that focuses on just three things: whatever demands least, can be used fastest, and costs least. It thrives wherever organizations seek to meet unrealistic targets with insufficient resources to maximize short-term profits. Indeed, Hamburger Management is short-term by nature, and will habitually sacrifice long-term advantage and value for the immediate gratification of bosses and investors.

To force people to work long hours at high pressure, for little if any additional reward, Hamburger Managers frequently resort to bullying of one kind or another. A survey in Great Britain found that 60% of respondents said that bullying is increasingly common across the UK; and about a third believe that their organization is ineffective at deterring such aggressive behavior. My guess is that most Hamburger Managers don’t even realize that they are acting like bullies. They have been brainwashed by describing their actions as “hard-charging,” “go-getting,” and “tough-minded”—all seen as pluses in the Hamburger Management universe. They were bullied themselves by their own bosses, so they see such behavior as normal.

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Competition is one of the most frequently used approaches to aid in the process of driving staff harder and harder. Organizations like to think of themselves as meritocracies. They believe the ruthless internal competitiveness they stimulate lets the best people rise to the top. If only it were that easy. In Western (and especially American) society, we are brought up to believe that competition is a good way to motivate people, that it guarantees an optimal distribution of resources, and that it builds character. In reality, most people end up labeled as “losers” and become thoroughly demotivated as a result. Even the “winners” suffer. If success is so sweet, failure become a hideous nightmare. Many “high fliers” are filled with anxiety at the mere thought of failure, becoming some of the most superstitious and anxious people around.

All this pressure to deliver the impossible, and do it yesterday, forces people to take short cuts whenever they can. One of the simplest is to hire consultants to help you imitate what you believe others have done. In this way, creativity is excluded from people’s jobs and is no longer seen as an essential part of management or leadership.

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The result of all this Hamburger Management, though it is given fine names like “practical business attitudes” or “getting things done on time, every time,” is to create a workplace that sucks. In another British survey:

  • 20% of respondents say that they are simply bored.
  • Almost a third of those interviewed claim to have no loyalty towards the organization they work for.
  • Almost three-quarters said that they did not believe they were making the most use of their knowledge and skills.
  • When asked if they thought their employer recognized their potential, an overwhelming eight out of 10 said that they didn’t.

We seem to have lost track of the notion that people come to work as people, not as mindless bits and pieces in some vast economic machine. Much of management education sucks as well. Those in charge are afraid that encouraging people to think will also encourage them to think “heresy” and challenge the present way of doing things—their way. (It should—and a very good thing too!) The result is boring mediocrity, based on learning that has nothing to do with business success, and everything to do with maintaining the status quo and minimizing the risk that someone, somewhere will do something new or creative.

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Hamburger Management approaches fail on all counts. People are treated casually, pushed around, driven to exhaustion by continually escalating demands, rarely trusted to do anything without constant “appraisals” and threats, and often forced into producing shoddy work, cutting corners and sailing close to the wind, ethically, just to make this quarter’s numbers.

It’s time to call a halt and get back to working lives that mean something and produce the chance for genuine satisfaction.

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P.S. My new book, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

    , was published last week. It’s available at Amazon and all good booksellers. Please take a look. Better still, buy a copy . . . or several!

    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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