Why Traditional Management Is Failing: 5 Key Factors

de | 18 décembre 2016

Why Traditional Management Is Failing: 5 Key Factors

“Much of what we call ‘management’ today consists of making it difficult for people to work.”   Peter Drucker

An abundance of research has revealed alarming failures of traditional management affecting individuals, organizations and society: Dramatically low employee engagement, loss of productivity, decrease in competitiveness, poor customer care, failure to attract and retain talents, high turnover and low state of worker wellbeing, including stress, precarious health and burnout (1).

What are the reasons management is failing so miserably? The following five stand out. Note that they are highly interdependent, each one strongly feeding into the other four.

1. Conception of Management

 “Management is an opportunity to help people become better people. Practiced this way, it’s a magnificent profession.”   Clayton Christensen

There is an urgent need for a new design of management, for a radically different conception of its role and function. It must take into account how much society has changed and how much work has evolved, the new needs and expectations of workers, the demand for more inspiring and caring leadership, as well as more humane and flexible work conditions (2; 3; Hamel, 2007; Laloux, 2014; Morgan, 2014; Pfeffer, 2015).

It is critical to understand the enormous impact of management on public and private organizations, as well as governments. It affects all spheres of our professional and personal lives. as Raymond Hofmann has pointed out: “Whether you can thrive at work is to a large extent determined by the quality of your management. And it does not stop there: how you feel at work quickly spills over to the rest of your life and sets the tone for how you treat family and friends…We must treat management as what it is: the most important social function in the world” (4).

2. Management and Leadership

There is a great deal of confusion about management and leadership, their interaction,  complementarity and interdependent functions.

It is not possible to separate managers and leaders. “We must see management and leadership as in a unified concept. One without the other simply does not make much practical sense: how can you lead if you cannot manage? And how can you manage if you cannot lead” (4).

Managers at all levels are appointed, whereas leadership emerges as a function of personal attributes and context. Some top executives lack leadership qualities, but we can find leaders without any titles in any team or unit.

3. Selection of Managers

 “Management deals with people, their values, their growth and development.” Peter Drucker

 Among the most important decisions organizations make is who they name manager. Yet, sadly, they consistently choose the wrong people for management roles, more than 80% of the time.

The selection criteria for managers are not aligned with the function and competencies required of managers. The result is that, globally, 87% of the workforce are disengaged and half of the employees have at one time or another quit their job just to get away from a bad boss (5).

The typical managerial promotion scenario is well known: The best technician becomes head technician, the most successful salesman is nominated head of sales, the outstanding accountant is promoted chief of accounting and so forth. “But the talents that make a person successful in a previous, non-management role are almost never the same ones that will make them excel as a manager” (5).

The technical expertise that newly appointed managers may bring with them represent an asset, but it is far from sufficient. Just think of some of the new responsibilities they are facing: Recruiting, guiding, training, coaching, evaluating their team members; motivating, stimulating and encouraging their new charges; setting objectives and priorities; resolving conflicts and numerous other challenging tasks they hardly ever had an opportunity to do before.

Finally, let’s not forget the vicious cycle that may be set in motion when misaligned selection criteria are used: Upper-level managers, having been appointed by this same misguided process, select inadequate lower-level managers, who in turn choose employees who represent a poor fit for their new position. Imagine what this “cascade effect” does for the motivation, productivity and wellbeing of the workforce as a whole (6)!

4. Management Training and Coaching

 “Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.” Warren Bennis

 To make matters worse and further compound initial selection errors,  few newly appointed managers receive adequate training before or after their nomination.

Any other demanding and multifaceted profession like management, such as doctor, engineer, psychologist or lawyer, requires many years of basic and practical training prior to exercising it, an attestation of professional competence, as well as continuous education and upgrading.

 No such qualification or certification for managers is required, and management training – if offered at all – is limited in most cases to a few days or weeks. This despite the huge impact management has in any organization, private or public, on employees, companies and society. This is truly one of the greatest paradoxes of our time.

In order to be able to respond to the high-level requirements of their function, shouldn’t managers acquire the numerous critical managerial skills and competencies including leadership, emotional intelligence, strategic vision, operational know-how, change management, delegation, effective communication, active listening, managing talents, team building, resolving conflicts, time and stress management?

 In addition to management training, individualized coaching should be available to all managers. Coaching provides them with an opportunity for raising their personal concerns and developing self-awareness, helps them build trust and create meaningful and constructive relationships with their team members, as well as a climate of collaboration and mutual support. It also allows them to address any blockages or barriers between them and their subordinates. All these competencies can best be improved and developed in personalized coaching tailored to each manager’s needs and challenges.

 In addition, across the coaching they benefit from, managers will learn valuable coaching skills that they in turn can apply to their own coaching of their team members. As Monique Valcour has insisted “you can’t be a great manager, if you’re not a good coach” (7).

5. Assessment and Accountability

 Assessments are carried out to help identify the strengths of employees, as well as areas where they could progress. The same should hold true for managers at all levels on a continuous basis, especially regarding the quality of their people management.

Annual performance reviews and engagement surveys are not the answer. What is needed are ongoing evaluation procedures that provide valid, useful and actionable feedback for managers.

While quality assessments of managers are indispensable, it is critical that organizations systematically act on the feedback obtained. Just as managers must hold their team members accountable for their results, so must managers be held accountable for their performance by their superiors. As it turns out, “by far and away the single-most shirked responsibility of executives is holding people accountable” (8).

It is not enough to express a vision, articulate expectations and define objectives. Actual managerial behaviors have to be assessed and deficiencies must be addressed and have consequences. Unless evaluations of managers and follow-up are in place and the C-suite is convinced that the care managers take of their employees is a priority, people management will remain neglected, despite its vital importance for the success of the organization and even for its survival.

The Future of Management

“For the first time in a century you cannot build a company for the future without building one that’s fit for human beings.”    Gary Hamel

Management has not kept pace with the profound and rapid change society has undergone in the last decades. Most of all, it has not found ways to capture the human spirit and respond to the deep need of people to find meaning and fulfillment at work.

The dramatic failures of management call for radical shifts, away from the concentration of power and direction at the top, towards more participation, self-management and autonomy of the workforce. Away from command and control, towards more dynamic structures, openness, flexibility, freedom and creativity. As Josh Bersin has put it, the goal is to “create an organization in today’s work environment that is magnetic and attractive, creates a high level of performance and passion, and continuously monitors problems that need to be fixed” (9).

 Bringing it all together

 Numerous studies have revealed the alarming failures of traditional management worldwide, with dramatic consequences for workers, companies and society alike.

 Five major reasons have been identified for these failures:

–Lack of understanding and concern for the critical role of management

–The separation of management and leadership.

–The selection criteria for managers are not aligned with the competencies needed for effective management.

–Managers do not receive adequate management training and coaching before or after their nomination.

–Assessments of managerial performance are insufficient. Managers need to be held accountable, especially for the quality of their people management.

Reinventing work and management is all-important, given their decisive role and impact in our daily lives.


Hamel G. (2007, The Future of Management, Harvard Business Review Press.

Morgan J. (2014), The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization. Wiley.

Laloux F. (2014), Reinventing Organizations. Nelson Parker.

Pfeffer J. (2015), Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time. HarperBusiness.

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dramatic-lack-employee-engagement-worldwide-marcel-   lucien-goldschmid?trk=mp-reader-card
  2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2014/01/29/why-most-of-what-we-know-about-management-is-plain-flat-dead-wrong/
  3. http://www.raymondhofmann.com/management-is-failing-people-and-institutions/
  4. http://www.raymondhofmann.com/management-is-the-most-important-social-function-in-the-world/
  5. http://www.fastcompany.com/3045453/hit-the-ground-running/how-the-wrong-people-get-promoted-and-how-to-change-it
  6. http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/182228/managers-engaged-jobs.aspx
  7. https://hbr.org/2014/07/you-cant-be-a-great-manager-if-youre-not-a-good-coach
  8. http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2014/05/05/how-to-improve-management-accountability-in-your-organization/
  9. http://dupress.com/articles/employee-engagement-strategies/


Marcel Lucien Goldschmid, PhD, Director, Management Training & Coaching, MTC