Cope with Changes, Don’t Make Them 

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Cope with Changes, Don’t Make Them

Fewer people doing the same work but doing it better – great idea; pity it doesn’t work

By Robert Bruce

It’s autumn. Global warming aside, it is the time of the year when the wind should start to chill. It is also autumn in the great cycles of management theory and management trend, although, talking to middle managers in multinationals, it is perhaps closer to winter, so desperate are the straits into which the cutting edge of management has led them.

Much management writing is simply irresponsible, and encourages the very senior management ranks of the largest companies to put into practice theories that have more to do with the behavior of bored six formers waiting to go up to university than with anything connected with the company’s well-being.

First we should get rid of anything that talks about ‘changing patterns of work’. When people write of changing patterns of work and how wonderful they are, you should always remember that by and large they are talking about their own patterns of work. They find it very agreeable to be free agents and think that, since they have a few friends fortunate enough to be doing the same, then it is probably a trend that is sweeping the western industrial world.

It is not. Journalists and consultants who have built up a good reputation can work independently, selling their knowledge to a number of organisations, remaining flexible in lifestyle and business and finding that it is rather lucrative to do so. They enjoy it. So they start writing about how this must be the way of the future – no-one needs the mind-numbing centralised organisation anymore.

Sounds like strategy

What then happens is that large multinationals see they have been cast as the villains of the piece. But they turn it to their advantage. It is fine when someone leaves one organisation to work for several. But it is not so good when it happens and the employee does not want to go. Or to be outsourced, as the memo will say. For the company the buzz phrase of ‘changing patterns of work’ means one thing. It is a way of getting rid of people and making it sound like strategy.

In a sense it is strategy. But it is a strategy that comes from looking at charts rather than looking at the business. All of reengineering, for that is what this is, depends on the idea of fewer people doing the same work and doing it better and doing it in a much more customer-focused way. Yet, so often, this simply does not work. But that only becomes obvious if you look at the teams within the business and what they are doing. It is not obvious at all if you are only looking at charts of what the business does. The end result is a reduced managerial staff who are bewildered, bitter, de-motivated and insecure. The last thing they will be able to provide is better customer focus and business expansion.

Second is the great trend for new chief executives to come in and change everything in sight. This trend bedevils any organisation in which the method of arriving at the top is the macho or conspiratorial one. The new chief executive appears, and in case no one has noticed his arrival he gets rid of a significant number of senior people who worked alongside the previous chief executive. A new team is put in place, much as the old communist states could only operate with a phalanx of yes-men.

The new chief executives then talk of motivation and teamwork. This is nonsense. The fact that an incoming chief executive gets rid of people on arrival shows the world that one of his many talents is a complete inability to get on with people who do not owe him favours. It is the opposite of teamwork.

The same is true of the inevitable restructuring that will follow. Each new boss needs to change the company into what he thinks is his own style and form. Again this is nonsense. Chief executives are there to run companies. In the long term, companies work best by offering a solid product that beats the competition on quality, and not by lurching from side to side in their markets as they seek to reinvent themselves on a three year cycle.

And the same is true of the sudden decision that strategy should reverse, go sideways or at the very least do something dramatic simply because someone else is sitting in the chief executive’s chair. So groups sell off companies that, suddenly, are no longer flavour of the month. Customers, markets, employees and suppliers are bewildered. And that goes for both the companies being sold off and the group that has sold them.

Advocating upheaval

Plunging your business into chaos and upheaval as a prescription for a brighter future has been advocated in one management book That was Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. And we know with hindsight that its purpose was more to do with holding on to power than with running things more effectively, efficiently or fairly.

Business is about change. Huge changes are occurring all the time, and have been since the industrial revolution. But the trick is to cope with change and

sometimes, with luck, to foresee it. Running a business as something solid amid the swirling uncertainties outside is the objective. Too much of current management theory advocates measures that only ensure that the swirling uncertainties are inside rather than outside.

Hence the intolerance of a mild year. No business at all is always going to do better this year than last. Plenty of the most respected businesses in the world are still there only because they were allowed to be sleepers through periods of their history when fashion or the times were against them. At those times their long-term future depended on people not squeezing every last bit of asset out of them. The pressures of rigorous financial controls ratcheting up the performance measures every quarter do much in the short term to raise a company’s or a group’s performance. It does nothing in the long term. If a management team, a product cycle or the whole company is constantly being pressed to squeeze more profit and performance from the company, the only long-term result is exhaustion.

But fashions change and seasons turn. The hope is that management theory will move towards something that takes into account how companies and their managers work best. It would make a change from reading nothing but remorseless logic that any middle manager knows cannot be applied to something as wonderfully diverse as an organization and its culture.



1. macho: of or having the quality of a man

2. straits: difficult position

To be in serious (desperate, dire) straits

3. villain of the piece: 1) театр. Главный злодей; мелодраматический злодей

2) перен. главный преступник

(villain -a man of evil character; piece -a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic


4. flavour of the month: a thing that isvery popular at a particular time. Trying to draw the

customers’ attention to a new product (or its variety) an advertiser may put an advertisement in mass media accompanying it with the phrase: “That’s the flavour of the moth!” meaning “That’s the best you can have”.



1. the cutting edge of management передовые, новые направления


2. to put smth. into practice осуществлять на практике

3. patterns of work формы и методы работы, система

организации труда

4. free agent человек, обладающий свободой воли,

независимый, самостоятельный; человек,«вольная птица»

5. to outsource, (outsourcing) передавать часть работ субподрядчикам

6. to do smth. in a customer-focused way ориентироваться в своей деятельности

на потребителя

7. managerial staff управленческие кадры

8. to motivate (motivation) мотивировать (мотивация)

9. to demotivate лишать мотивации

10. yes-man соглашатель

11. to beat competitors on quality превзойти конкурентов по качеству

12. to reverse strategy в корне изменить стратегию

13. to plunge a company into chaos and upheaval ввергнуть компанию в состояние хаоса и


14. rigorous financial controls жёсткий финансовый контроль

15. performance measures критерии оценки деятельности компании



I. Suggest the Russian for the following:

  1. by and large
  2. they find it very agreeable
  3. to sweep the industrial world
  4. to build up the reputation
  5. mind-numbing centralized organization
  6. the buzz phrase
  7. bewildered, bitter, demotivated and insecure staff
  8. an incoming chief executive
  9. solid product
  10. to reinvent oneself
  11. to know smth with hindsight
  12. to hold on to power


II. Find the English for the following:

  1. быть в отчаянном положении
  2. управленцы высшего звена
  3. благосостояние компании
  4. обратить ч-л в свою пользу
  5. сокращение управленческого аппарата
  6. ладить с людьми, находить с ними общий язык
  7. радикально изменить стратегию
  8. вести дело

9. нетерпимость

10. время работает против нас


III. Explain or paraphrase the following:

  1. “… it encourages them to put into practice theories that have more to do with the behavior of bored six-formers… than with anything connected with the company’s well-being.»
  2. This trend bedevils any organization in which the method of arriving at the top is a macho

or conspiratorial one.


IV. Answer the following questions:

1. Is it always worthwhile for a company to keep up with the fashion and times?

2. What are the author’s prescriptions for raising the performance of a company?


V. Read the following article and say in what way it challenges the statements made by Robert Bruce:

FEWER PEOPLE, PAID MORE= EXCELLENCE True story: Once upon a time there was a small department in a large organization. It was a typical pyramid - a vice-president, below him a manager, a secretary, five workers. To mesh with the rest of the company, their work had to be errorless and finished by 7 p.m. It wasn't.

Here's what was going on. The workers would take the work to the manager, who would make a few changes (otherwise what was he there for?). He'd send it to the vice-president, who would make a few changes (otherwise what was he there for?). The troops had learned that whatever they did they'd have to do over, so they were giving it a lick and a promise. Upshot: work finished at 11 p.m. full of errors.

For once, the traditional solution of adding more bodies was avoided. Instead, the vice-president, manager and secretary were de-hired. The workers were called together and told how much was available for wages and salaries. «Consider yourselves a partnership,» they were told. «Hire whomever you need, pay yourselves whatever a budget will stand - and get the work done by seven o'clock».

For a while work suffered, but one day it all began to come together. It turned out the «partners» didn't need anybody else, so they were able to raise salaries 25 percent. They split up the responsibilities and discovered, to their amazement, that they could come in at ten o'clock and still get the work done without errors by four. They're all having a ball; the rest of the organization is jealous as hell.

The point: «Five people in a partnership work a lot better than eight in a pyramid». Put another way: «Fewer people paid more tends to produce excellence at no overall cost - except to the people who get fired».

Robert Townsend, former chief executive of Avis and author of Up the Organisation, in Horizon

VI. Translate the sentences using your active vocabulary:

  1. Стремление руководителей многих компаний следовать передовым идеям менеджмента, не думая последствиях для фирмы, привело к тому, что многие из них оказались в отчаянном положении.
  2. Изменения в системе организации труда – неотъемлемая часть любого реинжиниринга.
  3. Весь процесс реорганизации, как правило, сводится к сокращению штата сотрудников (к сокращению управленческих звеньев).

  1. Оставшиеся менеджеры испытывают чувство недоумения, горечи, неуверенности в завтрашнем дне; у них отсутствует мотивация, и в подобной ситуации они, разумеется, не могут выполнять работу, ориентируясь на потребителя, или думать о благосостоянии компании.
  2. Многие авторы работ по менеджменту отстаивают идею такого предпринимательства, где каждый предприниматель – своего рода «вольная птица». Они утверждают, что за такой системой будущее, в котором не будет места централизованным организациям, подавляющим человека и сковывающим его инициативы.
  3. Главные исполнительные директора считают своей обязанностью проведение кардинальных изменений в компании сразу после своего вступления в должность. При этом они забывают, что их основное предназначение – руководить компанией и находить общий язык с подчинёнными, у которых есть своё мнение и которые имеют право участвовать в принятии решений, а не довольствоваться отведённой им ролью соглашателей.
  4. Если вы решили осуществить на практике новую управленческую теорию, проявите осторожность. В одной из книг по менеджменту рекомендовалось в качестве рецепта для достижения лучшего будущего проведение кардинальных изменений, которые ввергали организацию в состояние хаоса.
  5. В долгосрочной перспективе компании добиваются успеха, если они выпускают надёжную продукцию, превосходящую продукцию конкурентов по качеству.
  6. Что же касается управленческих теорий, то они должны учитывать факторы. Которые позволяют компаниям и их работникам добиваться наилучших результатов.



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