Many books du jour address how to be a manager, and how to organize, motivate and lead people. Writing these books doesn't necessarily require experience; enough platitudes can make a bestseller. I posit, however, that it takes practical, hands-on experience to know something about how not to be a manager. I offered some examples in a recent column, thinking I'd covered the field. As usual, colleagues and ex-employees pointed out my sins of omission. So, here are some additional ideas for mastering the art of effective mismanagement.
• Create apathy by introducing the latest buzzwords and expecting people to get enthused about them, especially when no one knows what the words mean. Think in terms of Jidoka, Kaizen, 4S, 5S and other arcane combinations of numbers and letters. Make speeches. Put up new banners to cover up the worn banners about earlier programs that failed. Then wonder why no one is excited about this latest epiphany. This works especially well if you bring in self-described experts, and even better if they clearly don't know anything about your products and processes.
• Drive everyone nuts with eternal crises. It's hard to believe, but a lot of managers love crises. Responding courageously to a crisis makes a manager look good, even if the solution doesn't work. Even if the situation gets worse instead of better, hardly anyone will notice; it was a crisis, remember? Of course, there's never a crisis around when you need one, so you have to create a crisis to manage. Obviously it's easier if you know the solution beforehand, but it works either way.
• Get a software system that will let you change master schedules on the fly. If you apply yourself, you can keep the plant doing setup continuously without ever actually making anything. Better yet, fill the warehouse with incomplete work in process. This will drive your working capital account to infinity, your accountants to strong drink, and your workers to doubt your sanity. In an advanced case of on-the-fly scheduling, a manager instituted a system whereby anyone not running what was now scheduled would be fired. Under this scenario, an operator who had 5 minutes left to complete a job would be fired if he didn't break off and start a two-hour setup-which, of course, would be obviated by a brand new schedule before he made the changeover.
• Embrace "flavor of the day" management wholeheartedly. Proclaim that Monday is the day to focus on housekeeping. This usually occurs on the first of the month, after the last of the preceding month has been all about making budget and schedule, and no one has seen a broom for at least a week. On Tuesday, shift your focus to employee training or reducing indirect labor. Decide the focus for each succeeding day impulsively. Practice this approach diligently and you can drive the staff completely nuts in less than a month! "Flavor of the day" doesn't work, because people like consistency, even when they say they don't.
• Maintain strict stratification; there are few better ways to unsettle your folks. This is where each manager talks only downward and only to his direct reports. Such unidirectional information flow is critical to satisfying the egos of the individuals who practice it, but it sure doesn't do much to enhance the health of the firm. The worst effect is that, in the end, the facts of the operation are secrets to management.
This is a work in progress. Your comments are invited.