17 Management Fads Almost as Dumb as the Open Plan Office

“There are a plethora of studies both for and against.”

I responded with:

“Bullsh*t. The ‘studies’ in favor of open plan are egregious biz-blab with zero evidence and not even a febrile attempt at actual research.”

To my vast surprise, my riposte was retweeted by Bob Sutton, bestselling author of The No Assh*le Rule, (and one of the smartest dudes in the business world, IMO):

“‘The dumbest idea of all time’ is clickbait. But weight of the evidence is strong against open offices. They are cheaper, but productivity and other problems–including that contagious illnesses spread faster–are well-documented. Don’t believe studies by architects especially”

What Bob calls “clickbait” I call “a good headline” because honestly I can’t think of ANY management fad that is dumber than the open plan office. That being said, there are plenty of candidates:

1. 360-Degree Feedback

The Idea: Ask everyone who interacts with an individual what they think about their performance.

Why It’s Dumb: Only an idiot would believe their criticisms of their boss will be kept confidential.

2. Agile Software Development

Why It’s Dumb: A group of unmanaged programmers is about as likely to come up with usable software as a group of monkeys to randomly type “50 Shades of Grey.”

3. Artificial Intelligence

The Idea: Self-learning algorithms will replicate the success of the best and most profitable management decisions in the past.

Why It’s Dumb: Corporate success is more a matter of luck and circumstance than any kind of replicatable decision-making.

4. Business Process Reengineering

Why It’s Dumb: Rengineering a corporation while it’s operating is the logical equivalent of reengineering an airplane while flying it.

5. Collaboration

The Idea: Decentralized, egalitarian groups of individuals in constant communication with each other will generation innovation and greater efficiency. 

Why It’s Dumb: Everyone knows that business meetings are huge time-wasters. Why would anyone believe that EVEN MORE meetings wouldn’t be worse?

6. Consensus Management

The Idea: Major decisions should require formal agreement from all stakeholders in all affected organizations.

Why It’s Dumb: It creates a situation where each organization can veto any decision; hence only the most obvious and risk-free decisions get made.

7. Delayering

The Idea: Removings multiple layers of management will increase the speed and effectiveness of decision-making.

Why It’s Dumb: It’s been repeatedly proven that nobody can effectively manage more than a dozen or so people.

8. Empowerment

The Idea: Line employees should feel that they have the power to make decisions without getting management approval.

Why It’s Dumb: This translates to: if things go well, the manager takes credit; if things go poorly, the employee is blamed.

9. Enterprise Resource Planning

The Idea: Integrate all the functions of the corporation into one centralized, consistent computing architecture.

Why It’s Dumb: Because ERP systems never work right and are never done, they’re a full-employment plan for huge IT consulting firms.

10. Knowledge Management

Why It’s Dumb: Some manages to be both painfully obvious (in a “well, duh” way) and also so vague as to be meaningless.

11. Management by Objectives

The Idea: Set reasonable goals for each individual and measure their progress in acheiving those goals.

Why It’s Dumb: Priorities change over time, rendering the defined objectives either meaningless or actively counterproductive.

12. Management by Wandering Around

The Idea: A manager should wander into people’s offices and work areas, ask questions and provide advice.

Why It’s Dumb: Actually an excuse for bosses to get their butts kissed, which is why bosses like it so much.

13. Matrix Management

The Idea: Employees report to multiple bosses in order to prevent organizations from becoming stovepiped.

Why It’s Dumb: The multiple bosses become locked in a turf war so that they’re positioned to become the “real boss” when the fad subsides.

14. One-Minute Management

The Idea: Managers need only spend one minute to set goals, one minute to praise employees and one minute reprimanding them.

Why It’s Dumb: Face-to-face tweeting isn’t all that more effective a management tool than online tweeting.

15. Six Sigma

The Idea: Create a set of statistical measurements, train certain individuals to be expert in them, and have those individuals monitor performance.

Why It’s Dumb: It creates a hierarchy of know-it-alls who don’t really understand the jobs that they’re critiquing.

16. Stack Ranking

The Idea: Decide who gets promoted and who gets fired using the “vote them off the island” methodology later perfected for the Survivor TV show.

Why It’s Dumb: Creates the perfect conditions for rampant racism, sexism, favoritism, backbiting, gossiping and lying. Popular in Silicon Valley.

17. Theory Z

Why It’s Dumb: The idea of a “job for life” is as fanciful and fantastical as a herd of unicorns dancing the light fandango.