Does management really work In this provocative new work, Gerber fires the next salvo in his highly successful E-Myth Revolution, proposing that the idea of management itself is the greatest myth of all.
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May 15, 1999
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Excerpt from The E-Myth Manager by Michael E. Gerber
The Managerial Myth
Intellectually, people may aspire for emancipation or enlightenment but emotionally they love small bondages around them . . . . They feel satisfied by knowing about liberation, reading about it, imagining it. They feel satisfied about this because the word liberation has its own intoxication, the emotional feel about the meaning of the word has an intoxication.
Vimala Thakar, "Set Them on Fire!" A Portrait of a Modern Sage
At the beginning of every organization, of every business, of every invention-of every life-is an idea. An idea that is good, or an idea that is bad, an idea that is yet to be proven, but still, an idea.
Look at your own life. Who you are is no magical accident-if you look closely, you will see that your life represents ideas others have had that influenced you, for better or worse, ideas you have had that have influenced who you became, and even ideas you never even knew had influenced you. Like the idea of relativity. The idea of gravity. The idea of human equality. The idea of time. The idea of space. The idea of God. The idea of justice. The idea of management.
Certainly each and every one of these ideas has influenced your life to some degree, yet how many of these concepts have you questioned? Perhaps in the early years of your life you did. But as we know, the older we get, the less we have time for serious questions. As we get older, the most serious of questions become unserious answers; we've got a job to do, and we do it. Yet it is these very serious questions, these very ideas, that shape the work that men and women do. That shape each and every one of us as managers.
History teaches us that an unchallenged idea can be a dangerous proposition. Still, every day, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of managers just like you go to work in an organization founded upon someone's idea and assume the responsibility of making something happen. Whether or not the idea is still viable, still achievable, still sane.
It doesn't matter what kind of company or which kind of department or division you manage-the fact that you're trying to manage it at all is, based upon my experience, insane. Management, as we have come to know it, is the product of many years of insanity based on an idea that to manage means to strive to control everything around us. Something humans were never born to do.
It is my belief that our idea of management dates back as far as people do, thousands upon thousands of years, as do our ideas of power, of work, and of prestige; our ideas of systems and bosses and careers; our ideas of what it means to have a job and what it means to lose one.
And at the top of the list is the idea of what it means to be a Manager.
The Accidental Birth of Management
The idea of the Manager is best typified by the illustration on the following page. It shows the pyramids being built. It shows the workers, their immediate Managers (today we call them supervisors), and the supervisors' Managers. The supervisors are the guys with the whips and chains. The workers, in case it isn'tobvious, are the ones moving 400 billion tons of monster rock into place to build the pyramid for their great leader.