Muddle through Management

The muddling through model of management has a more negative sound than its popularity would indicate. It's proponents tend to refer to this way of managing as common sense, pragmatic management or the "lets not get carried away here and keep it simple", alternatively the approach is described as a quick fix.  The method is to respond to all problems without any deep thought or to use the language with out "opening a can of worms." The problem might be absenteeism, management bullying, performance review, staff engagement, recruitment, cultural sensitivity or staff accessing porn on their works lap top. A characteristic of this model is to view  all these problems as HR rather than management issues. The response is therefore to expect policy to cover it and HR staff to sort it. 

Muddling through is a reasonable successful approach which is why it is so common. HR are rather good at digging managers out of holes and coming up with policies that " cover " the organisation. The weakness is that the muddling through approach doesn't attempt to look deeply into the issue. Absenteeism is assumed to be a problem with an individual's attendance so the solution is to involve occupational health to ensure there is no underlying health problem, tell them it must improve, set targets, dismiss if not met. This approach discourages examining why absenteeism rates differ so markedly between areas of service and individual establishments. Bullying is viewed as a problem of personality clashes rather than the organisation culture. Staff appraisals are bureaucratic response to competence they confirm "problem " staff but  don't look at why some managers are better at developing their staff than others. The annual staff survey "proves" the organisation wants to listen to staff but there is no attempt to get underneath the responses, negative comments are usually dismissed as " well they would say that wouldn't they ". Cultural sensitivity extends to provision of a prayer room but  strenuously avoids controversy around staff who object on religious grounds to marrying a " gay couple" or changing policy and procedures  to meet the  requirements of Muslims and Jews to bury their dead within 24 hours. 

The classic muddling through approach is illustrated when discovering a group of individuals are viewing  porn on their work lap tops. Those caught are disciplined. In response to their defence that this is a widespread practice all employees are reminded that viewing " inappropriate " material or circulating it on a work computer is considered gross misconduct. Do not look beyond the immediate circle, do not examine everyone's computer it would involve too much work, you can only dismiss so many people, mass disciplinary action would bring the organisation into disrepute. Do not ask questions about what this says about the culture within the organisation ,the real attitude of employees to sexism ,the willingness of managers to ignore certain behaviour and the effectiveness equality training. 
 
This model of management behave works, managers muddle through and that explains much about the gap between how things should be and how things are.
 
Blair Mcpherson author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 
 

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