Too Many Middle Managers in Government?

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Sullivan 8 years ago.

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  • #166114

    Josh Nankivel

    Perhaps this example includes a politician being a bit liberal with the truth:

    But it’s an interesting question.

    Are there too many middle managers on government projects?

  • #166128

    Mark Sullivan

    Perhaps the question isn’t whether we have too many managers, but rather whether we’ve created systems and processes that require too many managers. Under the auspices of ‘accountability’, we tend to create a lot of extra review and approval steps in government. Not only does this require additional managers to do that review and approval, but it also tends to require additional time while work batches up waiting to be reviewed. Unfortunately, that additional time and cost rarely results in additional value for customers and stakeholders. I suspect that the number of managers would naturally decrease if we developed more efficient ways of doing the public’s business.

  • #166126

    Carol Davison

    There are too many signatures that most appear on paperwork before employees are empowered to provide services to their customers. If we don’t trust the employees to provide the service, train, performance manage or fire them.

  • #166124

    Josh Nankivel

    +1 Mark.

    I think a big part of the problem is ‘process creep’ – steps get added over the years, especially by administrative management with influence over the process to add extra ‘control’ steps for a sign off by a manager.

    The friction for adding new steps is relatively low; many times they are added without any assessment of what value (and to whom) is being added by the new step.

    Steps very rarely get taken away. The friction for removing steps is relatively high because it might mean the elimination in whole or in part of someone’s job. Also I think there may be some psychological reasons why adding on is easier than taking away, similar to the imbalance between our perception of potential gains vs losses.

  • #166122

    Josh Nankivel

    Thanks Carol.

    Alternatively, if we don’t trust the employees to provide the service, maybe the managers need to be trained or fired. In my experience the overwhelming majority of employees are trustworthy; it’s the command-and-control, top-down, control-seeking behavior of poor managers that is the problem in many cases.

  • #166120

    Janina R. Harrison

    I find too many processes top heavy, not just middle heavy. Worse yet, too many people in charge, afraid to make a decision. Too many people in charge and trying to advocate for the building of their little kingdoms since that is how they get their grade/step.

    As Mark points out, the accountability creates burdensome processes that also feed this. Many managers do not ‘grow’ their staff or groom them for future lead positions. This means staff who apply for upper level positions and get them, do not have the skills necessary, especially people skills.

  • #166118

    Josh Nankivel

    How do we fix it?

  • #166116

    Janina R. Harrison

    I hear a lot of talk in our agency about ‘fixing’ it. I see people going to training but they return and go about their business in a “this too will pass” way. There isn’t any recourse for them not changing.

    It has to do with corporate culture. Corporate culture works from the top down. But there has to be real rewards or real punishment for those who do not change to meet the new culture.

    One company I worked for long ago decided to do a major shift in their culture. The CEO called townhall meetings at every site and told eveyone, “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem. We need change here or we will go under. We have to stay competitive, create a culture of innovation and idea sharing. If you aren’t on board, you should be looking for another job.” They brought in ‘interviewers’ who turned out to be psychologists of some type and they gave everyone tests and interviewed people. Talked to them about change and perceptions. Some people at the end of the interviews were given pink slips. People lined up for change.

    I also have to say that I took more than one psychological test before I went to work for a company, hand writing analysis, and some after I started work as part of employee development and communications.

    Hard to do this with a culture change every four years. That is where the ‘and this too will pass’ attitude comes from. Government is slow to change. New staff coming in may change culture as they move into management if they aren’t assimilated.

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