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The Michael Scott Management Paradox

The Michael Scott Management Paradox

March 12, 2019 10:41 pm0 comments

Jan: Do you always shut down the entire office when you leave for an hour?

Michael: No, no. That would not be efficient. Actually, they just don’t get very much work done when I’m not here.

Jan: [Stares]

Michael: That’s not true. I know how to delegate, and they do more work done when I’m not here. Not more. The same amount of work is done, whether I am here or not.

The Office, Season 2, Episode 7 “The Client”

This great bit of wisdom comes from the offensive and ineffable Michael Scott, who unwittingly stumbles upon somewhat of a management paradox: a bad manager is one who steps away leaving a more productive team. But a bad manager is also one who steps away leaving a less productive team. And if a team gets the same amount done with or without a manager, why hire a manager in the first place?

I think the ‘solution’ to this paradox is that good managers need to be good at creating and sustaining self-sustaining teams. Their presence is not required for work to be done, but their long-term presence is required to create a great team and keep them motivated, set their goals and get them going. The point is that if a manager does any actual day-to-day *management*, the paradox is violated and the manager has failed. Good managers don’t manage. Good managers create teams that manage themselves.

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