What is management needed for?


As we get older and more experienced, we get used to the practices and trappings of management.  But when we first enter our working life, it is tempting to ask: "What do we need all this management structure and overhead for?  The people in the organization will know what to do and will do it."  As a new graduate from a science or engineering university this seems reasonable enough (unless you have had work experience).  So it was illuminating to me when someone observed that


Management is a set of tools that permits organizations to function when staffed largely with people who are not fully adequate for their job.


In some ways this is a consequence of the Peter Principle[1]: "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."  And in other ways this is a comment on the scarcity of real talent (see the next section).  In any case, experience finally tells us that the people in most organizations are not really the ones you might like to have there.  But the organization must function with the talents and skills it has, and so the trappings, routines and skills of management are needed to make it all work.


Yes, it is true that, in the rare occasions when you really do have a team made of truly competent people, all this art of management is really not needed.  But this is such a rare occasion -- really good people are not either easy to find or plentiful.  Too bad!




[1] "The Peter Principle", Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, William Murray & Company, Inc., New York 1969