Saturday, 12 May 2012

Charles Moore on the 'bloodless bean-counters'

I couldn't help but think of some regional newspaper publishers when reading a brilliant column by Charles Moore (top) in the Daily Telegraph about the rise of "managerialists" and the "bloodless bean-counters".

Managerialists are defined as: "They are not interested in the content of the work their organisation performs. They are a caste of people who think they know how to manage. They have studied 'The 24-hour MBA'. There is a clear benefit from their management, for them: they arrange their own very high salaries and bonuses. Then they can leave quickly with something that looks good on the CV. The benefit to the company is less clear."

Moore writes: "With the rise of the managerialist comes a special language – a weird combination of semi-spiritual banality (“unlocking energies”), euphemism, and legalese. If you want to see the difference between people steeped in their trade and people steeped in managerialism, compare the testimony, at the Leveson Inquiry, of the Murdochs, father and son. The wicked old man spoke in the language, simultaneously sharp and blunt, of people who know and run their business. The evasive son adopted the locutions taught in business-school courses, honed by big law firms, footnoted by anxious compliance officers."

A contact who used to work in a large organisation tells Moore: " 'Consultation' is a word meaning that managerialists tell you what they are going to do, 30 days before they do it”.

Moore adds: "The people who tell you they are 'passionate about' X or Y are usually the most bloodless ones in the outfit.

"In such cultures, just as the experts, the professionals and the technicians bitterly resent the managerialists for neither understanding nor caring, so the managerialists secretly detest the professionals who, they believe, get in the way of their rationalisations. They are desperate to 'let go' of such people. Very unhappy organisations result."

Moore concludes: "No one sensible thinks that a large organisation can exist without being managed. Old stagers in companies, regiments, professions and, in my own experience, newspapers, easily over-romanticise their achievements and are unfair about the poor “bean-counters” who make the sums add up. But management should not dominate. As Lord Slim, who brilliantly led the British Army through the Burma campaign, put it: 'Managers are necessary; leaders are essential.' We now have unprecedented numbers of the former, not so many of the latter."

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