‘Management by walking about’

Management seems to be especially vulnerable to ‘fads’. These were most likely to be influential if they contained within them significant truths. The next few sections came out of my running up against these fashions as I went through my career – these are the ones that ‘stuck’.

Tom Peters was for a while the ‘go to’ charismatic management guru who seemed to offer some key insights about effective management. No doubt they had particular attraction to me because they seemed to offer solutions that fitted with my prejudices. As I struggled and rebelled against a growing bureaucracy and its focus on data and structure, Peters’ evangelism for people centred behaviours in managers was just what we wanted to hear.

Peters’ 8 themes were:

      1. a bias for action and problem solving
      2. getting close to the customer
      3. fostering innovation and nurturing ‘heroes and champions’
      4. treating employees as the source of quality
      5. hands on, value driven management
      6. ‘stick to the knitting’
      7. minimal HQ staff
      8. loose / tight properties – shop floor autonomy and central values

Some themes were more attractive than others and the idea of managers staying close to the human reality of service delivery rather than being remote and concerned with data and structure, was especially seized on.

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