I really hate this subject because it effects me directly. Back when Reagan was President we had a huge recession. As a result middle management was all but obliterated from the middle corporate America as management thought this was the way to survive. And we learned two important lessons from this reaction. (1) recession almost turned into depression and corporate America was almost erased (2) many middle managers spawned successful startup businesses. (the two are not offsetting even with the dot com boom and bust)
Now, it seems, that we are in economic hard times again and whether it’s a recession or depression is for future economists, however, I do know that middle management is being erased again; and top managers are calling it lean or agile. As a result the execs are making more money (as part of their “incentive” packages) and entry level positions have become highly competitive as the job market shrinks without rational stimulation. I wish that it was a fair competition but it’s not. It favors the young person. Not because they are smarter, faster, knowledgable, malleable, “agile” or even efficient but because they are cheaper. They do not have houses, cars, families, college tuition, electricity, water, heat or A/C. And of course retirement considerations.
Top-down total-agile-management might work in the EU where just about everything is socialized and retirement assured. But here in the US, where every 2 to 4 years we talk about how bankrupt the federal retirement system is, this obliteration of middle management and a genuine career path is paramount. Companies that do not support a middle management risk losing their knowledge base, fail to mentor or apprentice their line of succession, and are only interested in the short term benefits.
So my message to all senior and ‘C’ level executives. Start thinking about your company as if it were to exist for another 200 years and stop thinking about your own personal legacy.
If you take care of the future then the future will take care of you.