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Old Management Ideas and Practices That Won’t Die

Posted by on November 4, 2013

You can’t talk about the future of work without referring to many of the old and outdated management practices that are still the standard in most companies around the world.  Oddly enough most of the people who created these management ideas and practices are now dead. What does it say about our companies and managers when we continue to build upon ideas, principles, and philosophies that are not relevant anymore?  Management practices were created to be used during their present time during the then present condition.  Much has changed in just the past 5-10 years so shouldn’t the way we manage and lead our companies change as well?

We are too comfortable with staying the course and keeping our heads above water.  We innovate during catastrophes to bring us back to the way things used to be but we have a hard time innovating when things are going well.  The companies of the future aren’t going to be focused on staying the course and keeping their heads above water, they are going to be focused on flying above the water.

We can’t build new companies or evolve existing ones until we question the ways they are led and managed.  Outdated and obsolete management practices are all around us.

  • If it isn’t broken then why both fixing it?  Let’s not reinvent the wheel
  • You have to come into the office from 9-5
  • You will get performance reviews once or twice a year
  • Must create weekly status reports

What are your favorite management practices that just won’t seem to die?

The good news it that this is all changing.  Companies still implementing these are the companies barely keeping their heads above water, my advice to them…take a deep breath.


  • Todd Kruse

    What’s wrong with the formal review process once or twice a year? – the fact that it’s formal or the timing? I don’t see an issue with this if it helps the employee understand what they need to do in order to move to the next level or be more productive. Actually if you have the right kind of relationship with your manager you won’t be surprised at review time because you’ll hear similar feedback many times prior.

    • jacobmorgan

      Hi Todd,

      Well it if it works for you I can safely say that you are in the minority. The issue is not just with the process but also with timing. It is possible to give real-time feedback to employees now, why bother waiting 6 months or a year? In fact there are plenty of running jokes around how ridiculous this is, most people say if you want a good review just do well the first month and the last month. I think this format is around 150-200 years old now.

      • Todd Kruse

        Hi Jacob, it may very well be a broken process. But if you’re manager is judging your performance only by the work you’ve recently done….there’s a problem with the manager. Absolutely real time feedback is the way to go (and brutally honest feedback, both the good and the bad). It’s management by walking around, talking to employees. But you also need performance reviews written down, if for no other reason to protect the company against lawsuits if they have to fire someone who continually fails to perform adequately. The company can prove that the firing was for inadequate peformance. (unfortunately legal issues do come in to play).

  • Todd Kruse

    The bottom line is productivity. If you tell businesses they should make changes that will increase productivity, they will listen. If you tell them it’s just to make employees happier, they won’t. As for the 9 to 5 work hours in the office, that’s a double edged sword. Once businesses give more flexibility to work when and where as needed, your work-life balance becomes a work-life blend. It’s probably preferable to many people that way but if they allow you to take hours off during the work day, then you also need to be willing at times to work until after midnight if that’s what the job requires. It’s a slippery slope to working MORE hours in total than in the old days. Again, that may be fine, but in the extreme, it can lead to hypertension and other ailments.

  • Harv

    * “Your hourly employees are enemies” is a management strategy that won’t die. It is killing the potential of many companies.

    I worked for 30 years at GM, both as hourly and as salary staff. Salaried employees are disciplined if they fraternize with any of the “enemy” hourly workforce, even to the extent of sitting at the same table with them in the lunch room.

    The irony of this is that the hourly employees want to contribute to the success of the company and work with managers and supervisors in resolving production and quality problems. The success and strength of the company is an asset to all of the workers, helping to assure job security and stability at all levels.

    The management’s hostile attitude toward their own hourly workers is self defeating. Soon the production workers assume the “Them vs Us” strategy to explore every opportunity to inflict retaliation upon the managers, the production processes and ultimately, the products.

    It isn’t uncommon for managers to instruct the workforce supervisors to provoke their employees to anger with lies, accusations, infractions of established rules and personal insults as a means to cause them to work faster.

    Indeed, the workers will often respond by working faster, but will defy any productivity increase with deliberate acts to reduce quality or otherwise cause grief to the processes they perform.

    Products discovered to be defective were usually handled in typical management fashion. Production managers order the bad parts to be dispersed with good parts and sent to be built at downstream departments.

    When the downstream department discovers the bad parts, their supervisors will reject and return them to the originating unit to be sorted, reworked or scrapped.

    When the bad parts are returned, the supervisors of that department will stop production (usually by changing to a different model) to create an artificial shortage of the parts.

    Once the parts are in short supply and about to cause an assembly line to shut down, the bad parts (that were returned) are again sent to the downstream department to be built.

    This time, those supervisors have the option to either use the bad parts or shut down their assembly lines. The bad parts are used and defective products are sent to the assembly divisions.

    As these defective parts become apparent in the system, a meeting is called among the top department heads, engineers and managers. The primary concern is almost always, “Will the parts perform long enough to last through warranty?”

    This is a management strategy that has survived through many decades and only came under pressure from the foreign manufacturers that used more intelligent methods of production.

    The Japanese manufacturers eliminated the “Them vs Us” issue by making all production departments into teams that worked with each other instead of trying to defeat each other’s efforts.

    Even when GM adopted the ‘team’ strategy in their departments, they still couldn’t accept the new approach to manufacturing and so they designated “Segment Team Leaders” to assume the traditional overhanded management style to which they were accustomed.

    I don’t think there’s anybody who doesn’t know what has happened to GM.