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Consulting Group Finds That It's Often As Simple As Stupid Management

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) canvasses members monthly on trends and problems facing their international clientele. One consistent pattern is that stupid management is the culprit.

"In a world of shareholder value, open book management, heightened regulatory scrutiny, and advancing technology, we can't escape the fact that we're often trying to correct stupid mistakes. The equivalent mistakes on the front line would probably get people fired, but we all know that it's much harder to be fired from an executive suite," says SAC CEO Alan Weiss, Ph.D.

SAC member Ken Goldstein, President of KSG Consulting Group in Dallas, reports an instance where he finds the "Pollyanna Principle" at work. "No matter what the treasurer did to try to warn the board of the deteriorating financial position," reports Goldstein, "the directors changed the subject to a happier topic. I only ended it when I read them the exclusions clause in their own liability coverage, which sobered them up considerably." Goldstein eventually fired them as a client.

Catering to whiners and ignoring the all-stars is another classic case of stupidity. SAC member Paul Pease, president of The Pease Group in Hermosa Beach, CA notes that, "When management tries to be 'fair' to everyone they wind up being unfair to the organization as a whole, killing innovation and inspiration."

Weiss reports that SAC has identified the ten major categories of stupid management, which are largely beyond the control of consultants to correct, short of removing the perpetrators (who have often hired the consultant to begin with):"Saviors," who feel that everyone on their watch must be successful."Equivocators," who dodge responsibility while making nice speeches."Tyrants," who believe sheer force can accomplish goals, despite resource constraints and competitive moves."Consensus-Obsessives," who believe they should "conduct" rather than "lead" on the job."Reducers," who want to fanatically cut every expense as the means to increase profit."Nits," who concentrate on micro-management and minor details, rather than strategy and the big picture."Cultists," who buy in to every fad and crazy solution that comes down the pike."Unmentionables," who are rarely seen by employees or customers because they are busy utilizing every perk every day."Culture-Blind," who are those executives transferring to another firm who ignore the new culture, beliefs and values (Carly Fiorina, anyone?)."Local-Centrics," who can't seem to understand that the world is bigger than their offices, and who consequently never consider customers, employees, other markets, new technology, etc.

Weiss notes (with tongue firmly in cheek) that SAC is working on a "stupid management" consulting methodology, which will probably never be perfected but would be worth millions.

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