Fads and fashions

I belong to a fashion industry, and that’s a pain! My fellow management consultants have made it, and feed it ceaselessly with fad after fad. Managers are made to feel foolish if they’re not up with the latest whizzy idea – heard the conference pitch, bought the book, the DVDs, signed up for the class.

It seems that managers are continually looking for the magic bullet – a new way of thinking and approaching things, the one new seeming science that will transform the way their organisation works. The magic bullet will make everything join up and make sense. It will be easy to sell and to carry through in the organisation, and it will make everything all right. All this nasty, complicated stuff will simply go away.

From the earliest days of consultancy as a profession, consultants have been stoking these fires. Each new idea (or many-times recast old idea) is presented as the wonder drug – the one step, obvious solution. It seems too good to be true. That’s because it is too good to be true. And in the vast majority of cases (employees being apparently savvier than leaders on this subject) it doesn’t get taken seriously in the organisation from the start. In fact, if you look at the statistics:

  • Time spent by manager to buy quick-fix management book: 15 minutes
  • Time to read book: 1 hour
  • Time to issue organisation-wide email announcing new and simple approach (from book) as “our new way of doing business”: 15 minutes
  • Time spent by employees to read and dispose of email: 30 seconds x number of employees
  • Percentage of employees who snicker at manager’s naiveté: 99%
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