The state of the business environment today can be a source of severe cognitive dissonance.

On the one hand, many a large and famous company find themselves reduced to rubble, struggling to survive, ostensibly cutting all but unavoidable expenses, laying off scores of people, radically changing their operations or pleading for financial help.

On the other hand, I get anecdotal evidence on a daily basis that if you were to look closer at the very same organizations, you would see money and time wasted everywhere in inordinate amounts. I am convinced today that the major source of this waste is middle management.

A Saturday evening outing with friends yielded several examples of such waste:

  • IT department of one of the major Canadian banks (we only have a handful of them). A manager keeping contractors on staff for months without anything for them to do. Managers and directors not communicating with their staff  at all and having no idea what their reports are working on.
  • Another large financial organization. Nepotism. People without the requisite skills hired as a courtesy to other managers for no apparent need, at the expense of shareholders.
  • One of the largest municipalities in Canada – middle management engaged in turf wars, projects in a stalemate as a result. Contractors kept on a payroll in the meantime. Millions are wasted.

When a C-level executive makes a serious mistake or commits malfeasance, or when a major project blows up, the public learns about it, laments over the waste and demands punishment. However, middle management is a much bigger crowd and while the magnitude of any given misdeed is not as large, the much greater number of occurrences creates an avalanche of waste.

If you are a senior manager, you simply must be aware of how your subordinates manage their departments and teams. This is not micromanaging or meddling, this is your direct responsibility. Are you too far removed ? Fix it today.

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