Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

I once knew a manager who wanted me to do a translation for him. I used MS Word, whereas he swore by something called Ami-Pro. Now, I am reliably informed that he could have converted his Ami-Pro document to Word and sent it to me at the cost of about one minute of his time. This would take too long! Managers’ time is important! Instead, he spent at least half an hour of that supposedly valuable time urging me to acquire Ami-Pro – at my own expense – just so I could do this job for him, and also save him one minute. It wasn’t even a very big job. And he would have to spend more time browbeating the next translator to acquire Ami-Pro at his own expense, since my attitude to purchasing unnecessary software could be summarised as “Hell, no”.

I don’t know how long a time in total he spent ‘saving’ his single minute. It hardly matters, since for some mentalities, time emphasising one’s own importance – such as being too Important to undertake a simple file conversion – is never wasted. The same goes for emphasising that one is Too Important actually to know that files can be saved as another format, or how to do this. Such things are for non-managers, who are paid a lot less.

It is clear, in fact, that the astonishing feat of saving that one minute is what made him a Manager with a capital M. Which he was, as he never tired of telling people. In fact, he was the first person from whom I ever heard the mantra, “A manager can manage anything”. That is, one does not need to know a damn thing about the field being managed or in any way justify the claim to be a manager. You just are, and your irrational self-esteem will open all doors for you. In particular, the tendency of everyone competent to leave the company quite soon after your appointment demonstrates that you have the managerial talent to clear out the dead wood.

In this country the entire railway system was for a time in the hands of men who knew nothing about running a railway, but quite a lot about selling soap or whatever. The result was that the system practically broke down altogether, which was obviously the fault of the career railwaymen who knew where things were at and got their hands dirty. I would guess that those top managers have since moved on to create gloom and despondency in some totally unrelated industry. For if you are a manager, you can destroy anything, and you can rip off anyone. Accept no substitutes.

Posted on March 9, 2010 at 20:27 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Management As Cargo Cult

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