If somebody would care to quantify the cost of constantly checking with people whether they are doing what they are supposed to do, we would come up with a horrible ROI. Checking is the greatest source of organizational ineffectiveness. When checking, particularly constant checking, is not in the DNA, organizations are very effective. The opposite, checking as a habit, a culture of checking, is an effectiveness nightmare.
We have mistaken ‘management’ with ‘checking’, at high cost. When managers become policemen and information traffic wardens, we get a bureaucratic culture.
When the German sociologist, Max Webber (1864-1920), wrote about bureaucracies, he said this about the bureaucratic legal system: “The modern judge is a vending machine into which the pleadings are inserted together with the fee and which then disgorges the judgment together with the reasons mechanically derived from the Code.”
We have many ‘vending machine managers’ in our organizations, which have given a bad reputation to so-called ‘middle management’. Personally I do not share the standard view that middle management is responsible for all the ills of the organization, that they are resistant to change, withholders of information and, in general, not very nice, obstructive people. It does not have to be like this. The problem is that we have to reinvent management to get away from the partial truth of those stereotypes and from the model of ‘checking and policemen’. Middle management has a key role in maintaining corporate memory, not a small detail.
Could you imagine a culture where you don’t have to check much for performance? Where all your checking is strategic and for results? Could you imagine what would happen to trust in that organization?
By any account, the cost of checking is very high. For those hard skilled leaders who mainly understand numbers, this is not a difficult math to crack: number of meetings down by x%, add this to employees time focused on delivery and not on reporting to the boss every other day, equals Y savings and Z productivity gains.
If you fancy a good cost reduction programme, stop checking.