Very rarely will a blanket management philosophy effectively work across every employee in your organization to motivate them to do their utmost best every minute of every day they show up to work.
In fact, I would say it never has worked and it never will work.
Simple. Every person is different. Every person has a different motivation for being there.
If you were to be really honest with yourself, your text book, flavor of the week management mojo is there to impress your peers and those you report to.
To be an effective manager, you have to be able to not only reactively adjust to the give and take to the everyday workflow in your company, but you also have to anticipate roadblocks and challenges ahead in the course of developing your product or service.
Management is not metrics, though it is oft mistaken as such. Metrics are necessary, but I claim only in an ancillary role; though at many companies they are the de facto reason the employees operate the way they do (sales quotas, number of lines of code written, QA items cleared from the queue, etc.).
In truth, the metrics that ultimately matter are: (a) is my company making a profit, (b) are we growing relative to the market / competition, and (c) am I retaining the talent that made (a) and (b) possible.
Metrics and Methodology are most often used as crutches to assist lazy managers from actually applying gray matter to serious problems at hand: how do I get the most productivity from my employees? What incentives will make my people happiest? How can I improve the quality of whatever it is that I do?
In short, you have to not simply understand implicitly your market, but at the micro level you have to understand what your people can – and cannot do. And this is hard work, because it means you have to actually know about who your people are. And not just on an abstract level.
Management methodology primarily exists to give a set of managers a set of guidelines – not to excite or motivate – but to apply decision making in bulk. No thinking, no personal investment. “Sorry, but this is our policy.”
Do companies need standard policies? Yes. Guidelines? Again, yes.
But your policies and guidelines won’t lead to excellence, and they won’t lead to performance.
To inspire the people we work with to create great stuff, we have to lead by doing.
We have to stop conflating methodology with accountability – they are fundamentally different things. If I want to inspire the people I work for, with, and those working for me, I have to first perform my job as promised, with integrity, and to the best of my ability.
Accountability is ultimately a personal obligation, while methodology is wholly involved in dealing with people systemically and impersonally.
And sadly, all the great methodology and big thinking in the world can’t make workers with mediocre work ethic suddenly become great performers.
People are either hard workers, or they are not. They are either top performers. Or they are not. They have integrity. Or they don’t.
Don’t take me entirely the wrong way. There is a definite place for mentoring employees so that they may become great-er employees than they already are. Demonstrate what it means to be professional, to be accountable, to be thorough in their work.
But every Gantt chart in the world won’t accomplish this; every spreadsheet in the world won’t accomplish this.
Great management means getting in, getting your hands dirty with the task of knowing employees strengths and weaknesses, individually, and not trying to come up with a Silver Bullet system that will absolve you of doing this hard work, for the sole purpose of worshipping at the altar of Scale.