Pseudo Scientific Management

Where you learn to sing "Kumbaya."

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Lately I seem to be receiving more than my fair share of e-mails. Among the spam I get daily, I can always count on some flyers on various management related workshops. Lately I have been studying these flyers more closely. It has been my observation the courses being offered seem to lack substance and tend to rely on facade. They seem to dance around the issues and, instead, offer classes aimed at making students feel good about themselves or how to be more politically correct. Even worse, they tend to offer some crackpot theory of management under the guise of being scientific, thereby trying to make them fashionable.

To illustrate, I recently received a training flyer which boldly stated in its headline, "Negativity costs the U.S. economy an estimated 3 billion dollars in lost productivity last year alone. What's it costing you?" This originated from a vendor who specializes in combating negative attitudes in the workplace. I found the claim rather hollow. There is no doubt negative attitudes have an adverse affect in the workplace, but how can you substantiate such an estimate? I am not aware of any mood detectors that keep track of time. In other words, the claim is frivolous and without merit. Anyone can pick numbers out of thin air, but are they credible? Yet such claims are common in such classes.

This was part of a two day class entitled, "Workplace Conflict Training Camp" featuring a "Stop Your Drama Methodology" which is an "eight part empowerment process to increase clarity and improve productivity and personal effectiveness." Having coined the term "methodology" in this industry back in 1971, and trained thousands of people around the world in it, I think you can safely assume we know a thing or two about methodologies. This is certainly not a methodology. Rather, it is a spin on the word to give the illusion it is based on some sort of scientific principle. I believe it is nothing more than some organized ideas for overcoming negativity in the workplace. In other words, it is a structured table of contents; but a "methodology?" Tut-tut.

I received another flyer touting a "Productivity Training Camp." As in the other course, they boldly claim: "Distractions cost American companies time and money — approximately an hour a day and $10,790 a year per worker." Again, I would challenge the vendor to substantiate the claim. As I read through the flyer, I found it was nothing more than a class on basic leadership and how to maximize your use of time. As a true course on productivity though, Tut-tut.

I have a great respect for the science of management and tend to believe such courses denigrate the science. Yet, they appear to be selling well. Maybe it's because people are gullible about management or perhaps the subject matter is fashionable. For example, the Information Technology sector is particularly inclined to following any fad that comes along, good or bad, without question.

I tend to think of management as simply, "getting people to do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it." If we lived in a perfect world, there would not be a need for managers; people would know what to do, and projects would be executed on time and within cost. However, as we all know, we live in an imperfect world. People make mistakes and problems arise, hence, the need for "managers", people charged with assigning and directing the work of others. Managers are in the business of solving problems; people problems.

So, instead of singing "Kumbaya" together or learning Political Correctness 101, managers need to learn such things as cultivating and controlling the corporate culture, empowering people and managing from the bottom-up, defining true methodologies in the workplace and standards, improving discipline and accountability, communications, coaching and encouraging teamwork, promoting craftsmanship, and much more. To get an idea of what true management is, be sure to download a complimentary copy of my eBook, "THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! Empowering Managers in today's Corporate Culture."

I do not mean to dismiss the courses mentioned earlier completely out of hand, but I tend to consider them as doing nothing more than "making mountains out of mole hills." They may have a couple of good ideas, but certainly nothing worth the amount they charge for such a course. Who knows, maybe they include in the price a signed copy of the lyrics to "Kumbaya" for each attendee.

I think we have enough pseudo-scientific approaches to management. How about we get to work instead?

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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