Management: A word that’s headed for banishment?

Posted 07.31.2008

In his blog, The Next Big Thing, Tom Davenport reports that IBM has recently determined that, henceforth, the term "knowledge management" will be known as "knowledge sharing" (see below). The implication is that the word management is associated with command and control while sharing invokes a kinder, friendlier ethos.

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So when did management become a bad word?  As Dan Goleman and others have noted in their research on emotionally intelligent leadership styles, even a command and control style can be appropriate and effective in a limited range of situations (e.g. a short-term crisis).  My observation is that the art of management is too often overlooked and underrated in many organizations. Execution and operational excellence require good management. It doesn’t just happen on its own.

The importance of effective management systems hit home for me last Thursday after I sat at the gate for an hour and a half on an A320 bound for Denver from Washington Dulles. Thankfully, since it was 90 degrees outside, the pilot let the engine run so the air conditioning system continued to run. After sitting at the gate for 45 minutes with no explanation for the delay, the pilot informed us that he was required to wait on some maintenance paperwork that was either in San Francisco, Chicago or DC. Forty five minutes later, he let us know that the paperwork was located and we’d be leaving for Denver as soon as the fuel tanks were topped off. A few moments later the pilot keyed his mic one more time and said, “In case you were wondering how much it costs to top off the tank, it’s around $18,000.” So in 90 minutes at the gate, we burned through probably a third or so of the annual salary of the person who was responsible for the paperwork in the first place. No wonder that the airlines have collectively lost $15 billion since deregulation.

While the art of leadership understandably gets a lot of attention, let’s also celebrate great management. Leadership and management are not mutually exclusive. We need both.

What other words or ideas have you noticed that seem to be undeservedly falling out of fashion?