Rosabeth Moss Kanter recently wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review. She has a number of views on the subject of management hierarchy and I think she misses the point. In response…
First of all, as an example, middle management is where executives and upper management get to take off their training wheels. There is a reason why Donald Trump has an apprentice program and not just the TV show. There is a reason why government does pretty much the same. I would not expect some undergrad with a polisci degree to run the country. Without middle management the revolving door at Yahoo and HP would become a game of chutes and ladders. (The last thing I want to see is all upper management graduating with Harvard MBA and no job experience)
Second, it’s not the first time that corporate america has ejected middle management in the last 30 years. The last time was because of the recession/depression or whatever it was. This covered manufacturing and technology companies. And in the end it was a huge mistake. There was so much intellectual property in middle management that companies took years trying to retool for the next cycle.
Thirdly, your post was tweeted by an agile coach. I respect this person very much. And his tweet of just the article’s title suggested to me that there is an agile twist to this as most agile teams and companies are very flat. This sort of suggests that a rank and file worker at a company that practices agile from top to bottom is (1) a pawn to be replaced (2) expendable (3) not really going to advance in responsibility because the ratio of workers to managers is so high.
Finally, this article suggests that we (in the US) are moving from a capitalistic society to socialistic one and while there are some benefits in both; the problem is that we are democratic capitalists. We want to win the lottery. We want the new shiny toys, cars and houses. So until Madison Ave stops selling gold plated cell phones, and MTV stops selling gold plated teeth and “cribs” and until Donald trump moves into the 4/3 next door to me …
Mrs Kanter I appreciate that you took the time to write this article but I see it as a warning of yet another economic disaster.
PS: There was a period of economic growth after the last recession because many of those middle managers started their own companies. I’m not certain that can happen again. I’m just an out of work programmer with 25 years experience and with my dependents I need middle management responsibility and salary; I cannot compete with high school and college grads because they do not have houses, cars, families, insurance payments and so on.