Employees Not Gurus Should Have Management's Ear

Your article "Management's new gurus" (Cover Story, Aug. 31) discusses America's new breed of management consultants, who earn large sums of money by advising companies. It concerns me to see that so many big-name companies require such services, when most of their problems could be solved by listening to their employees. Until more companies wake up and listen to their workers, no amount of private consulting will solve their problems.

Paul Falkler

Pasadena, Md.

While management thinkers' ideas covered many areas, from organizational architecture to time-based competition, I was surprised to see so little attention paid to managing employees. To suggest that "the key resource of business isn't capital, personnel, or plant, but knowledge and information" is to deny an important truth. People--the appliers and creators of knowledge and information--have been and always will be integral to success. By diminishing their role, we ensure that Corporate America will never achieve the greatness within its reach.

Kelly Blake Morgan

Evanston, Ill.

I thought it interesting how "management gurus" use their nonbusiness education and training in formulating organizational improvement theories. Since business covers a wide variety of activities, it makes sense to supplement business theory with practical nonbusiness theory. However, I've found that all too often supervisors and managers have very little business/management training and depend too heavily on theories or experience from nonbusiness fields.

Managers with degrees in political science who "networked their way to the top" and supervisors who treat their employees as children are the ones hurting organizational improvement. The problem is perpetuated as these managers and supervisors hire only those with little business experience and degrees in, for example, history or music. This way the ineptness won't be detected, and the newly hired are taught to play office politics and cued to do little besides maintain the status quo.

Gregory J. Bownik

Maple Grove, Minn.

The assertion that "all the focus on leadership was wrong because it undermined the concept of empowerment" is misleading. True leadership is not about stifling and undermining empowerment. True leaders realize that the people who perform the job will be the sources of new and creative ways to meet the needs of their customers. And the true leader uses his or her authority to support the effort and eliminate organizational obstacles.

Paul E. Schwetz

St. Louis

With all due respect to the "gurus," I found your story to be an indictment of modern business management. Such phrases as "conceptual framework to escape linear thinking" and "congruence models of autonomous work teams in high-performance work systems" are just the type of "business-speak" that permits top management to escape accountability and obfuscate responsibility. They are akin to the total-quality management programs that promote sloganeering and consensus at the expense of individual action and responsibility.

Robert S. Banks

New Canaan, Conn.

Your slam of The One-Minute Manager as "happy-talk evangelism" missed an important point. Management-guru wisdom works if it can be effectively understood and operationalized at the level of first-line supervisors. The One-Minute Manager may not be as cognitively complex as systems thinking offered by MIT engineering types, but the book offers an effective, understandable program based on important principles of goal-setting and feedback.

Chad T. Lewis

San Francisco

Your story dealt with management consultants' concepts used by large corporations and with management consultants with specialized approaches for smaller companies and organizations.

With their limited resources, smaller companies can only gradually absorb, digest, and implement change. However, over time, these incremental improvements contribute substantially to the overall progress of the organization.

Laddie F. Hutar

Glenview, Ill.

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