Managers: who needs them?

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A recent news item that raised my eyebrows, but otherwise went relatively unheralded, informed us that BAE were going to make approximately 440 of their managers redundant. No-one else, just 440 managers. Now BAE is a company that manages extremely technical major construction projects for UK defense contracts. It recently won contracts to build Royal Navy aircraft carriers and Astute-class submarines, so I think we can safely assume that the company must be doing something right.

That said, many of you may be shaking your heads wondering how they will manage such complex projects with so few managers. Personally, my thoughts are more along the lines of "Finally, someone has seen the light!"

The advantages of firing managers are so numerous I barely know where to start. Think of the morale boost to the workers from no longer having to listen to a manager reiterate pedantically and at length the work we already know needs doing. Goodbye tedious meetings and coma inducing PowerPoint presentations! Farewell, meaningless, vacuous review processes!

If you're still not convinced, just think of the potential reduction in email traffic to your Inbox. This is the big one. Here's a little anecdote I like to tell: whenever one of the best managers I ever had returned from holiday only to find he had over 5000 emails in his inbox, his solution was to delete the whole lot. His theory was that if anyone still needed his help urgently, they would contact him again. Then he got on with doing his day to day job. Sadly, it's a rare attitude, and most managers are never happier than when viewing emails or tapping a response with a gleeful, childish look on their face. I'd wager many BAE employees will gain several extra hours a week just from the reduction in the number of pointless emails to which they're expected to respond constructively and enthusiastically.

Of course, one of the most insidious aspects of the "management layer" is that it is self-perpetuating and ever-expanding. All managers eventually recruit more managers beneath them so as not to expose their own inadequacies, therefore creating another useless layer of management. Almost incredibly, however, it looks like some of the managers at BAE really can spot unnecessary overhead when they see it and can act accordingly, and have culled some of their fellow managers.

What an inspired decision! Perhaps some of you will point out a few small downsides, but overall surely most of companies in the world could benefit from following BAE's lead?

Patrick Index (Guest Editor)

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