The Oldest Profession… that isn’t??

Management has been around a while, to be sure.

In fact, I’m quite fond of saying that “Management theories, principles, and concepts haven’t changed much since Moses.” I stand by that. Applications may have been modified, to allow for changing demographics, stilted legislation, excessive competition, etc. But the basics? Nope, no real change in a couple thousand years…

Throughout modern years, there always seems to be a movement afoot to “professionalize” management; to make it a “legitimate profession,” like you do specialty fields such as medicine law, and accounting.

The Harvard Business Review published an article a few years back to that end, titled It’s Time to Make Management a True Profession.

To that, alas, I must say “horse-hockey.” Balderdash. Baloney. Nice try, no cigar.

There are no consistent standards with which you can apply universally to managers around the globe. The author of the HBR article listed a series of attestations that he felt would legitimize management enough to make us a “profession.” These included (with my comments):

1. Never have self-interests over the organization’s. [Ed.] Well, that would be nice, but wouldn’t have prevented Jeff Skilling at Enron from becoming certified as a “Professional Manager,” would it? He put the organization first, but in such a way as to be harmful.

2. We should promise to understand and uphold — in letter and in spirit — the laws and requirements of my company, country, and society… [Ed.] Are you kidding me?? Teams of lawyers battle it out over these things daily, and I’m now charged with being the do-all-end-all?? Not likely…

3. We should promise to represent our organizations with such transparency that everyone — everyone — can make well-informed decisions about our company. [Ed.] Who determines what’s transparent? Who determines what should remain proprietary? Who determines who should spend resources educating those non-stakeholders who also make up part of “everyone??”

4. We must recognize that “…any enterprise is at the nexus of many different constituencies, whose interests can sometimes diverge. While balancing and reconciling these interests, I will seek a course of action that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term…” [Ed.] What?? This must — MUST — be written by an academic. Though I wish we lived in a pollyanna world, alas, reality is sometimes a bit tougher. And who, pray tell, makes the determination of “enhancing the value for society?” The party in power at the moment? SCOTUS? The CEO?

Sometimes, academic articles boggle the mind. Other times, they can be downright scary with their lack of connection to actual events and real application.

Here’s my suggestion. Have every manager desiring to become a “Professional” as defined by some ivory-walled theorist to raise their right hand (or left, I’m ambivelent), and repeat after me…

“I [state your name] do solemnly swear on all things holy that I will:

(a) Do no intentional or reasonably avoidable harm to my organization, and

(b) Do all in my power (within the parameters of (a) above) to make the organization successful as measured by financial results, employees, and other relevant stakeholders.

Then, by the power vested in me by, well, me, I now knight thee a true professional, in every meaning of the word, with all the rights, privileges, and obligations (and, likely, lawsuits) commensurate with such a lofty and noble position.”

At least, that’s what I would do.


Be Brazen.

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