December 24; Are Managers Still Needed?
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful


24 December

Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

Proverbs 6:6-8

Are Managers Still Needed?

Necessary Evil

There were twelve geeks writing code on the team. They called themselves the 12 Disciples. We experimented with the self-managed work-group, who wanted a team with no Jesus, so to say.

They would accept an assignment, complete the project then submit the work. There was no hierarchy, no boss, no subordination. It seemed so very modern.

But the structurelessness didn’t last.

Writer Alan Murray tells of the experience of Jim Collins who wrote Good to Great,

… Collins, who was inclined to believe that the importance of leadership was overstated, urged his team to “ignore the executives.”

But he says the team kept pushing back, saying there was something consistently unusual about the leaders of the good-to-great companies.

“We were surprised, shocked really, to discover the type of leadership required for turning a good company into a great one,” Collins writes.

“Compared to high-profile leaders with big personalities who make headlines and become celebrities, the good-to-great leaders seem to have come from Mars. Self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy—these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. The are more like Lincoln and Socrates than Patton or Caesar.” (Murray 2010)

Does management add value? And does the additional structure and hierarchy and a vertical organizational chart advance organization goals? Peter Drucker writes,

In the early twenties, when Ford set out to prove that managers are not needed, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., the newly appointed president of General Motors, put the opposite thesis to the test.

GM at that time was almost crushed by the towering colossus of the Ford Motor Company and barely able to survive as a weak number two. Little more than a jerry-built financial speculation, stitched together out of small automobile companies that had been for sale because they could not stand up to Ford’s competition, GM did not have one winning car in its line, no dealer organization, and no financial strength.

Each of the former owners was allowed autonomy, which in effect meant that he was allowed to mismanage his former business his own way and as his own personal fief.

But Sloan thought through what the business and structure of GM should be and converted his undisciplined barons into a management team. Within five years GM had become the leader in the American automobile industry and has remained the leader ever since. (Drucker 1973)

In most industries, hierarchy and a formal structure are probably useful. What happens in the absence of order? Entropy,

Organizations are intentional creations: They are where we come together to accomplish something that none of us could achieve alone. But there is nothing automatic about this coming-together process… “The only things that evolve by themselves in an organization,” Peter Drucker once observed wryly, “are disorder, friction, and malperformance.” (Magretta 2002)

Professor Peter Drucker suggests Servant Leadership may be the answer,

IBM…redefined the supervisor’s job. There is no supervisor in the traditional sense. Where other companies speak of supervisor or foremen, IBM speaks of an “assistant.” This is exactly the role the supervisor is supposed to discharge. He is to be the “assistant” to his workers. His job is to be sure that they know their work and have the tools. He is not their boss. (Drucker 1973) p 261.


In our small team of coders, we put in a “phone-tree” to ensure accountability in contacting staff in an emergency. A team member volunteered. Then we needed someone to track vacation days (to make sure that the days off were actually taken). Then someone was needed to pick-up the pizza or Chinese.

Someone once said, only half in jest, that the manager is the person who meets the visitors so that everyone else can get their work done. (Mintzberg, 2013).

Finally, we had to promote that volunteer and hire another coder to do her work as she did the administrivia. We finally had a, well, come-to-Jesus-meeting. We needed a full time person. Professor Mintzberg writes, “Managing is no job to approach with hesitation: it simply requires too much of the total person.” (Minzberg 2013)

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8


Mintzberg, Henry (2013-09-02). Simply Managing: What Managers Do — and Can Do Better (Kindle Locations 686-689). Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Good to Great cited in The Wall Street Journal Essential Guide To Management, Alan Murray, HarperBusiness © 2010 page 11.

(Drucker 1973) p. 383-384

What Management Is: How it Works and Why It’s Everyone’s Business, Joan Magretta, Free Press, 2002. Page 131

(Drucker 1973) p 261.


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