The Managerial Crisis in America

I’ve been wanting to write about why good companies fail under the weight of incompetent managers for a while now.

Having worked for American companies for over a decade, I’ve found that interacting with managers is a daily (painful) task. There’s critical information that needs to be communicated clearly and concisely. But how do you convey information to someone who has no clue about what you’re talking about or whose knowledge of the subject is limited at best? What precautions do you take to ensure they understand the implications – without teaching a 4-years university class to them? How do you guarantee the integrity of the information as it’s passed up the chain? Where does your responsibility end? An even more intriguing question is: how did that person become a manager when they’re not qualified to lead a high-performance team of scientists and engineers?

The answer to all these questions is simple. Other equally unqualified managers decided that person was ready to move up the company’s food chain. The path looks like this: Typically, in relatively small U.S. startups, an idea quickly becomes a business model, and if it seems viable, it attracts funding. Money starts moving things faster than it should, and when you need help, you first turn to your friends. Friends are always there to lend a hand. Some of your friends know how to code, others know how to design, and maybe how to run around a few things. As the company grows in size and volume, you start trusting these friends who brought you this far. And that’s where the mistake is made.

When a company approaches a critical point, it needs to hire scientists, engineers, technicians, etc. But who’s going to oversee them? Your friends! Friends who might have brought in other friends, whom you equally trust, become managers, directors, and C-level executives. If the company’s product is science-based, those friends who wrote a few things at the beginning and ran some initial errands now must interact with scientists and engineers. There’s your point of failure.

Right there.

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