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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 July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

    More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

     

    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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