Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Building Empires

I did an odd thing several months ago when I came to this job.  I freely and without complait relinquished my headcount.  I had to let the person go and it turned out that we weren't going to replace him.  I didn't know it at the time, but when it was told to me I didn't complain very much.  I've learned to do more with less my whole life.

I don't know why, but people have a hard time doing this.  I sit in meetings discussing personnel and I always hear people saying how they need more people to do whatever it is they are supposed to do.  And it always seems to be the same people doing it.  You can always find these people.  They are the people who measure how important they are by the number of people who report to them.

That is not to say that I don't like managing people and don't think it is a worthwhile thing.  But I would never go say something like, "I run the biggest department in the company" as justification for anything but I've heard people do it.   I've sat in meetings with these people and they constantly talk about how they need this or that, and never understand that headcount is often fixed, and fixed at the highest levels in the company.  You can't just hire people because you feel like it, nor does that often solve the problem you are trying to solve.  In fact, it normally makes it worse.

I often wish that the workplace would institute efficiency metrics on its managers.  Basically managers would be judged by an efficiency ratio.  All their work would be divided by their headcount and their performance would be measured by how much work they got out of their employees. It would create the right incentive.  It would actually encourage managers to have less headcount and trim their budget.   I believe this actually happens in many industries.  However, it would be next to impossible to institute in my industry since it is notoriously hard to measure the output of a development team.

How would you solve this problem?  What could you do to be sure that managers didn't get employees just to build an empire?

1 comment:

  1. The mentality goes back to the military. How soldiers do you commend? How many forts do you control?

    Up to a certain point I understand that managers feel like they're important if they have a good number of staff (they get more budget because the company feels their service is a necessity). However after a certain number, if the team is not producing more then at that point, number of staff is not the answer. It's more likely inefficiencies in the process.