How to carry a wife

Thanks to Arts & Letter Daily for this link to indispensible advice from the Wall Street Journal (To Have and to Hold: The Key
To Wife Carrying Is Upside Down

The best way for a man to carry a woman is to dangle her upside down over his back, with her thighs squeezing his neck and her arms around his torso.

One “passenger” entered in the Wife Carrying World Championship in Sonkajarvi, Finland, was quoted as saying “It’s not so bad. But you don’t see much“.

Management is a dirty word

This morning I realised that “management” is in danger of becoming a dirty word in the UK.

Estelle Morris, Minister for the Arts, was interviewed on the Today programme, because she has just been chosen as “Minister of the Year”. This award from her peers made the headlines because Morris was not a Minister for much of the last year; in October she resigned as Secretary of State for Education after publically admitting that she wasn’t up to the job, and she was appointed Minister for the Arts only last month.

On the Today programme Morris praised the Blair government for holding itself accountable for the standard of public services, but she went on to say (RealPlayer required):

The danger is [accountability] turns politicians into managers and I think it’s because of that, that sometimes it looks as though we want to control things at the centre…

…You know I think another thing is that politicians deliver nothing. They only deliver in conjunction with the service, with teachers and doctors and nurses. And sometimes ’cause we’re so managerial I think that we probably exclude those other people from taking credit for what is being done as well.”

What Management Is book coverGiven her comments Estelle Morris must have had some experience with bad managers (haven’t we all?), but the negative connotations she associates with managment generally, indicate that she needs to read the excellent book that I’ve just finished: What Management Is by Joan Magretta and Nan Stone. The subtitle is “How it works and why it’s everyone’s business“.

Everyone includes politicians, of course; and the following excerpt seems tailor-made for Estelle Morris:

Back when labor was mostly a matter of brawn, the work itself could be managed: analyzed, organized, and specified. Workers had only to do exactly what they were told, and supervisors made sure they complied. But even as the supervisory component of management has shrunk considerably, we continue to confuse authority and control. Having the authority to reward and punish – being in charge – isn’t the same thing as being able to control an individual’s performance. When people become managers for the first time, they often experience a rude awakening. At last they take control, only to find they’ve been taken hostage instead. They realize that they are now dependent as never before, because management creates performance through others. Without the willing cooperation of others, management can accomplish very little.

Clearly Estelle Morris was talking about something else when she used the words “manager” and “managerial” this morning. I suspect she meant that holding politicians to account can turn them into tyrannical, dictatorial control freaks, and that they sometimes fail to give credit where it’s due because they’re too autocratic (and selfish?).

In the end I think her choice of words was unfortunate because they will only compound the poor opinion of management that is already palpable here in the UK (see BBC Newsnight: Economy hit by bad days at the office, Top bosses ‘overpaid and mistrusted’ and No confidence vote for British business), which would be a shame because Magretta and Stone are correct, management in its broadest sense is everyone’s concern:

We began the book by saying what management isn’t. It isn’t supervising other people, it isn’t applied economics, it isn’t about occupying a privileged rung in a heirarchy, and it isn’t confined to commercial enterprises.

Because we have been defining terms as we’ve gone along, we can now venture to say what management is.

Management is the discipline that makes joint performance possible.

Its mission is value creation, where value is defined from the outside in, by customers and owners in the case of a business; by society, more broadly, in the case of government agencies and nonprofits.

Despite being a politician for 24 years, Estelle Morris has yet to understand what management is: the discipline that makes joint performance possible, otherwise known as leadership.

Business versus babies

The alumni magazine from my university arrived last week, and I was struck by the size of the “births” section that was allocated to my contemporaries.

Of course, that’s simply a function of age, but it was interesting to note that almost every alumnus’ message gives the impression that their greatest accomplishment is the birth of their latest child. All these intelligent, well educated, high-achievers, and yet not one highlights a single professional accomplishment of note. Is it significant that after 20 years of learning and another 20 of hard work, they’re most proud of simply doing what comes naturally?

Well, it seems so. A couple of weeks ago the Economist published an article on the lack of women enrolled in MBA programmes, and it elicited the following response ( see Economist – Letters – The family business):

Typing WomanSIR – As an MBA who left a career in economic research to care for my two young children, I can tell you why more women do not pursue the qualification (“Men’s work?“, June 14th). Business schools and the careers to which they lead mould one to be self-promoting, analytical, decisive and ambitious. Motherhood requires that one be self-deprecating, intuitive, patient and tied down.

I have had to develop hastily the skills for motherhood that I had repressed in order to succeed in the business world and now resent having spent so much time and energy developing exactly the opposite of the talents I need to do what I consider the most important job of my life. For business schools to attract women they would need to change the very nature of business itself.

Barbara Ross Epp
Port Washington, New York

That’s quite an indictment of the business world and executive education. It seems business requires cold-blooded warriors, whereas motherhood calls for, well … passionate mothers.

What seems most likely to me, however, is that people are simply listing their most rewarding accomplishments. In other words, these intelligent, well educated, high-achievers have simply found raising children to be much more fulfilling than any amount of previous job satisfaction. All of which presumably bodes well for the propagation of the human race, but what does it imply about business?