Category Archives: Management

The Value of Bosses

Source: Edward P. Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw, Christopher T. Stanton, NBER Working Paper No. 1831, August 2012
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From the abstract:
Do supervisors enhance productivity? Arguably, the most important relationship in the firm is between worker and supervisor. The supervisor may hire, fire, assign work, instruct, motivate and reward workers. Models of incentives and productivity build at least some subset of these functions in explicitly, but because of lack of data, little work exists that demonstrates the importance of bosses and the channels through which their productivity enhancing effects operate. As more data become available, it is possible to examine the effects of people and practices on productivity. Using a company-based data set on the productivity of technology-based services workers, supervisor effects are estimated and found to be large. Three findings stand out. First, the choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team. Using a normalization, this implies that the average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker. Second, boss’s primary activity is teaching skills that persist. Third, efficient assignment allocates the better bosses to the better workers because good bosses increase the productivity of high quality workers by more than that of low quality workers.

Revenge of the Managers: Labor Cost-Cutting and the Paradoxical Resurgence of Managerialism in the Shareholder Value Era, 1984 to 2001

Source: Adam Goldstein, American Sociological Review, Vol. 77 no. 2, April 2012
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From the abstract:
Institutional changes associated with the rise of shareholder value capitalism have had seemingly contradictory effects on managers and managerialism in the United States economy. Financial critiques of inefficient corporate bureaucracies and the resulting wave of downsizing, mergers, and computerization subjected managers to unprecedented layoffs during the 1980s and 1990s as firms sought to become lean and mean. Yet the proportion of managers and their average compensation continued to increase during this period. How did the rise of anti-managerial investor ideologies and strategies oriented toward reducing companies’ labor costs coincide with increasing numbers of ever more highly paid managerial employees? This article examines the paradoxical relationship between shareholder value and managerialism by analyzing the effects of shareholder value strategies on the growth of managerial employment and managerial earnings in 59 major industries in the U.S. private sector from 1984 to 2001. Results from industry-level dynamic panel models show that layoffs, mergers, computerization, deunionization, and the increasing predominance of publicly traded firms all contributed to broad-based increases in the number of managerial positions and the valuation of managerial labor. Results are generally consistent with David Gordon’s (1996) fat and mean thesis.

An Assessment of the Current and Future State of Human Resource Management at the Local Government Level

Source: P. Edward French and Doug Goodman, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2012
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From the abstract:
As academics and practitioners continue to challenge traditional models regarding the nature of the public employee relationship with government, increased emphasis on the contributions of strategic planning, formal workforce planning, and performance measurement to the mission and goals of public organizations have occurred. This study evaluates the opinions of human resource management professionals at the local government level to determine the importance of numerous functions and activities to the practice of human resource management today. Survey respondents are also requested to project the importance of these same concepts in 2019. We find that many of the traditional HR management practices are still considered very essential by human resource professionals at the local level; and the four major principles of reinvented HRM anticipated to emanate over a decade ago have been adopted at a much slower pace than expected.

Assessing New Public Management’s Focus on Performance Measurement in the Public Sector: A Look at No Child Left Behind

Source: Barbara A. Patrick and P. Edward French, Public Performance & Management Review, Vol. 35 no. 2, December 2011
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From the abstract:
New Public Management, with its emphasis on debureaucratization, decentralization, and accountability, has attempted to make public sector organizations function in the same way as those in the private sector. Its implications for traditional government entities, including the public school system, are yet to be fully determined. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 was intended to decrease achievement gaps caused by race, class, first language, and learning abilities. The act’s foci of accountability, testing, sanctions, and rewards in the educational process are central to the federal government’s framework for shaping the goals and outcomes of educational policy across the United States. The present research indicates that the development and use of performance measures to hold educators accountable and improve performance is limited by organized employee groups and enhanced by minority student populations. At this, time, significant increases in student performance as a result of NCLB efforts are not evidenced.

Enactment and Implementation of the National Security Personnel System: Policy Made and Policy Unmade

Source: Douglas A. Brook and Cynthia L. King, Public Administration Review, Volume 71, Issue 6, November/December 2011
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From the abstract:
This case study reviews the enactment and implementation of the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) in the U.S. Department of Defense. Proponents of reform seized the opportunity to enact reform in the aftermath of 9/11, basing their arguments on national security concerns. However, the policy-making process did not produce a consensus for reform among key stakeholders in the personnel management policy community. Instead, the NSPS angered and alienated the Office of Personnel Management, the public employee unions, and a number of congressional Democrats. Implementation of the NSPS became problematic as Defense Department officials attempted to move quickly and independently to get the new system online, eventually forcing the department to put the system on hold. In the end, Congress imposed limits on its implementation, advocates for the system disappeared, and a new president supported the repeal of NSPS. This case provides useful insights into the formulation of future strategies for personnel management reform.

First, Let’s Fire All the Managers

Source: Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 89 no. 12, December 2011
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Management is the least efficient activity in your organization.

Think of the countless hours that team leaders, department heads, and vice presidents devote to supervising the work of others. Most managers are hardworking; the problem doesn’t lie with them. The inefficiency stems from a top-heavy management model that is both cumbersome and costly.
See also:
Fire All the Managers (audio)
Source: HBR Ideacast, November 17, 2011
Fire All the Managers
Source: John M. Kamensky, IBM Center for The Business of Government, December 6, 2011

Men and Work-Life Integration: A Global Study

Source: Kathleen M. Lingle, Peter Linkow, Jan Civian, WorldatWork and WFD Consulting, May 2011

From the summary:
A global survey reveals a growing imbalance between what employers say about work-life balance and what they actually do. Every October since 2003, WorldatWork’s Alliance for Work-Life Progress (AWLP) has led a national awareness campaign that promotes work-life effectiveness as a key contributor to productivity and success in the modern workplace. This year the campaign is calling attention to a troubling gap between leaders’ beliefs and behaviors at many organizations.

Employee respondents reported repercussions that included:
* Overtly or subtly discouraged from using flexible work and other work-life programs
* Received unfavorable job assignments
* Received negative performance reviews
* Received negative comments from supervisor
* Denied a promotion

The study found the following prevailing leadership attitudes in developed countries (United States, United Kingdom and Germany):
* More than half of the surveyed managers think the ideal employee is one that is available to meet business needs regardless of business hours
* 40% believe the most productive employees are those without a lot of personal commitments
* Nearly one in three think that employees who use flexible work arrangements will not advance very far in their organization

Who Moved My Cube?

Source: Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks , Harvard Business Review, Vol. 89 nos. 7 & 8, July-August 2011
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…Managers once discouraged, even forbade, casual interactions among employees. To many bosses, chitchat at the watercooler was just a noisy distraction from work. Today we know that chance encounters and conversations on the job promote cooperation and innovation, and companies craft their floor plans and cultures with this in mind. The results have been surprising–and often disappointing….The most effective spaces bring people together and remove barriers while also providing sufficient privacy that people don’t fear being overheard or interrupted. In addition, they reinforce permission to convene and speak freely. These requirements, we’ve found, apply just as readily to virtual spaces as to physical ones, although their virtual manifestations may be quite different. In either setting, getting the balance wrong can turn a well-meant effort to foster creative collaboration into a frustrating lesson in unintended consequences. Although no formal studies of the reasons for the design failure at SAS were done, it has all the earmarks of such an imbalance–and should serve as a cautionary tale for any company contemplating a redesign….

Building a Collaborative Enterprise

Source: Paul Adler, Charles Heckscher, and Laurence Prusak, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 89 nos. 7 & 8, July-August 2011
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…Collaborative communities encourage people to continually apply their unique talents to group projects–and to become motivated by a collective mission, not just personal gain or the intrinsic pleasures of autonomous creativity. By marrying a sense of common purpose to a supportive structure, these organizations are mobilizing knowledge workers’ talents and expertise in flexible, highly manageable group-work efforts. The approach fosters not only innovation and agility but also efficiency and scalability.

A growing number of organizations–including IBM, Citibank, NASA, and Kaiser Permanente–are reaping the rewards of collaborative communities in the form of higher margins on knowledge-intensive work. (The CSC divisions that applied the CMM most rigorously reduced error rates by 75% over six years and achieved a 10% annual increase in productivity, while making products more innovative and technologically sophisticated.)