Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What managers do

Tonight, I was looking for something to read, and I settled on a book by Bill James*, which I hadn't read since I bought it when it was published in 1997. Bill, as an undergraduate, double-majored in English and economics, and has spent his working life doing what he wanted to do (mostly), rather than working for someone else. And it's worked out pretty well for him.

The book is about managers of major league baseball teams, and it is in many ways quite fascinating.

Anyway, on p. 157, he writes:

"The most important question that a manager asks is "What needs to be changed around here?" Any manager, over time, loses the ability to see what needs to be changed..."


"If a manager is successful, he changes the needs of the organization. By so doing, he often makes himself obsolete."

(In the book, the second quote actually comes before the first.)

All of which makes a lot of sense in managerial contexts generally. Managers succeed when the make changes that redirect the organization as it needs to be redirected. Managers fail when they cannot identify what need to change. And, oddly, for reasons Bill writes about, it's almost always easier to implement changes early in a manager's tenure. Later on, managers have been captured by the culture they have created (or, at the very least, helped to create).

I'll let you all think about the applicability of this to your own work situations.

*The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers From 1870 to Today, Scribner (New York: 1997).


Post a Comment

<< Home