The secret management model that must not be named

It’s my annual appraisal tomorrow, the lowlight of my year.

I announce my opinion of appraisals out loud, and nobody disagrees, most agree, for the usual reasons.

  • “why once a year do you talk about work and how it’s going? we have 121s every month!”
  • “why score someone with “satisfactory”? How’s THAT going to make them aspire to be better!”
  • “what’s with these VALUES?! I’ve got my own that I much prefer!”
  • “Most of the things on my appraisal were cancelled in the following months”

Everyone says they should be done “better”, but nobody says don’t do them at all.

Keen readers of this blog will have noticed that I’m fan of Deming. Despite him being old and boring, he is totally right as well. He said just don’t do them. That’s really the only answer to them.

I’m not going to list all their faults, or why they’re silly, cos I’m not that conscientious, you can google for that. Trust me, or Google, it’s up to you, either way, they’re worthless and damaging but for some reason staff can’t entertain the idea of doing away with them completely. Why’s that?

I think it’s cos they’re an essential part of an invisible and unnamed management model that nobody really grasps exists, or even has a name. The model runs everything. Like the illuminati. From the strategic plans to individual objectives in your annual appraisal. Runs ’em all. The performance monitoring, the use of binary comparisons of target against actual. Every damn thing is permeated by the secret model that nobody knows exists or has a name….

Unless they’ve read a book or two, or taken the slightest interest in how work works, then they’ll know.

It’s called ….




There. It-That-Must-Not-Be-Named has now been named. Like Lord Voldemort

Management By Objective is the name, and by their name so shall ye know them.

Plans, seem natural. Cascaded objectives from above, seem natural. Individual targets derived from plans, seem natural and inevitable.

They are not natural.

They SEEM natural because they’re all that most staff have ever seen in the workplace. They’re as natural as cars or mobile phones. Ie, ubiquitous but man-made. A choice.

They are integral parts of Management By Objectives, or MBO.

MBO is the unknown and un-named model that runs the vast majority of organisations.

You’ll have seen triangles in your work. In interminable service plans or strategic policy documents. Things that assert with a straight face what the organisation and therefore you will be doing.

This is a visual model of MBO. Your annual appraisal, no matter where you sit in the triangle, will be a monitoring of your delivery of a tiny chunk of it.

And MBO is roundly, almost comedically, discredited.

The first time i heard of it it was being debunked. I didn’t even hear of it when it was being mooted, or in its prime! It is THAT much of a secret to most staff. And that old-fashioned.

And it doesn’t work! Not as a model of how work actually works, or an aspiration of how it could work. Drucker first popularised it in the 1950s, so it’s had time enough to see if it COULD work. Look around you, does it?

Which brings me back to appraisals. Do they work? Not in theory, not if you tried really hard and THIS time made it work, but actually in your experience and of those around you, do they?

So, for a laugh, ask your manager in your next appraisal, “what is the name of the management model that we use here? that this is a part of?” Just for a laugh, cos it’ll be the only one you’ll be going to get.

Same time next year folks!

***LATE EDIT! Seems as if four years ago I typed virtually the same blog post, just much prettier cos I was all arty then. So here it is a bonus extra, to celebrate National Democracy Day*****


This entry was posted in command and control, plans, systems thinking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The secret management model that must not be named

  1. Peter says:

    Great stuff… keep it coming. Calling out madness and warped psychology is always worthwhile…


  2. Adrienne says:

    Hello, little typo – you’ve got decision-making ‘separated from the work’ on both lists. I don’t think you wanted to do that….


    • ThinkPurpose says:

      Ever heard of the story of Good Will Hunting and the pretend sex scene?
      Matt Damon and Batman, when they sent the script out to producers, inserted a pretend sex scene between what would be Matt and Robin Williams​. This was to see if any producers that got back to them had actually read the script.
      Harvey Weinstein wanted the script, but said “drop the sex scene”. They went with him.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Inside the minds of pathology managers | ISOwatch

  4. Neil says:

    Have you looked at the OKR?


  5. Pingback: Folk management | thinkpurpose

  6. Philip Oakley says:

    For the annual appriasal, assuming you get to provide an initial summary of ‘progress’ then one trick (as best it could be called) is to slightly reverse the ‘Report’ approach.

    Avoid trying to provide the insight (i.e. suggestion of your performance), but instead stick carefully to the facts that would obviously support that insight. Try not to be part of the supra system, but keep it to the half way point between minion and master. Make sure you state a clear irrefutable fact (one is neccessary and sufficient) relevant to your work, and by implication, performance.

    E.g. ” I wrote chapter three (30 pages) of the Human Interface requirements, which was used by software for the GUI coding”. This gives you a solid basis for, hopefully, reminding the assessor of your positive qualities, and makes it harder for a poor assessment. And you will feel you have achieved something (even if no one else notices!).


Leave a Reply to ThinkPurpose Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s