Monday, 2 March 2009

What does a manager really do ?

Walk into any office anywhere. The overwhelming sight is one of most people peering into a computer screen while a few others are closeted in meeting rooms. This has always stuck me as odd - why do managers peer into a computer screen all the time. I did so too; so why did I do it ?

Which led me to the question - what do managers really do ? Wait a minute - that sounds stupid. Aren't executives the most overworked creatures on earth ? Aren't they always busy ? What sort of a question is that ?

Sure they are busy. They are overworked. But what do they really do, in all that time ?

What if we adopted an industrial engineering approach to studying what managers really do; timed their average day . We might find some answers. I am of course too lazy to do this. But I can speculate. Lets take a middle manager - Joe D Public. What's Joe's typical day like. ?

Let's say he works for 10 hours a day - a typical manager's work day. Add to that a one and a half hour commute. So typically he devotes 12 hours to his job.

Two hours he's on e mail. I blogged about it earlier in one of my posts. Probably over half of this time is unproductive.

One hour he is on the phone - half of this is on numerous one on one calls and half of this is on a conference call.

One hour goes for lunch, tea, smoking breaks (you see Joe smokes and he has to get out of the office building to do so these days).

Two hours he's on meetings. Some of these are one to one talking to somebody. Some of these are meetings of more than 10 people where Joe doodles or checks his e mail. Lets say 50% of this time is productive.

He travels for an hour ( averaged over a period ). I blogged about this earlier.

If he's a really good Joe, he meets with a customer or a supplier for about half an hour a week. That's really productive work time.

He meets his subordinates for about half an hour - giving instructions, reviewing stuff with them, etc etc. Very productive. For half an hour or so, his boss or colleagues are firing him for something. Not very productive.

He does company bureaucracy for another half an hour - filling forms, sending some report, authorising some stuff, etc etc. Complete waste of time, but something that has to be done.

All this totals to about nine hours. He then does 2 hours of peering into the computer. If he's a good Joe, he's browsing sites on the internet. If he's a naughty Joe, he's playing computer games. If he's a really naughty Joe, he's looking at porn.

He has now done 11 hours. He's late. With a weary shrug of his shoulders, he heads for his commute back.

I can count about 4 hours of really productive stuff. But Joe is overworked and weary. Executive life is really hard these days.

I am waiting for some really pissed off manager to tear this apart !


Anonymous said...

A (middle) manager also spends a good part of his time preparing / delivering reports to senior management, who spend half their time in airport lounges (you blogged about this before) taking conference calls with other (middle) managers or on their laptops / blackberries emailing (you blogged about this before) other (middle) managers about their reports!

Ramesh said...

Oh yes Anon. And also a million power point charts for the pointless (pun intended) presentation.

Anonymous said...

Very often the trouble is because, we let ourselves into believing in the MAFA syndrome.(Mistaking Activity For Achievement syndrome)
Frankly, in nearly 20 years of working, I have always wondered what you can possibly do to fill in 8 hours of work each day! (I am either a super genius or super lazy!) There are days that stretch into 12-16 hours but those are not necessarily every day. The one time in my work life I had a packed 8 hour schedule with not a single minute for useless meetings, unwanted conf calls and general chatter (all three are found in abundance now) was in 2004at another place/another time/another planet.

Ramesh said...

Completely agree. If we ever let an industrial engineer loose on ourselves and timed every minute of our work day, we would be completely shattered.

Neelesh said...

This reminds me of Narayan Murthy's article wherein the Payouts in Corporate's needs to be reversed wherein the CEO gets the least!! Ha Ha, will this really work in these days??

Ramesh said...

Nice idea Neelesh - Will post on this as well !

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