Some Fun Reading from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

In my Oliver Stone-ish mind, I have always imagined that there is a secret society for bad corporate executives. Fellow co-workers and I have talked about this for years. It’s not at all illogical to think that there’s conspiracy afoot. There must be some central committee that promulgates the rules and procedures for these goofs because no one could ever dream up some of this stuff on their own. Real leaders don’t need to join this society and don’t. In fact, the selection committee dismisses them out of hand anyway.

It’s still fun to think about it though. You know the clandestine anointing ceremony where they learn the secret handshake and so on. I imagine that’s where they are also handed the “Double Secret Handbook.” This manual contains everything the new executive needs to wreak havoc on the rest of the organization and score kudos for themselves and their cronies.

I might have even found a chapter or two from that tome. These are right from the central committee and will give the reader a real flavor for their thinking process. Here’s one of my favorites. I will share more from time to time:

Chapter 10 Salary Norming

You can always be a star with your peers, the CEO, board of directors or anyone else you happen to report to if you propose cost cutting ideas. The perfect place to start is always with middle management and salaried types. Middle management is a necessary but costly evil. We tried getting rid of that entire layer of the organization chart a few times during the past twenty years but it created problems for us. The original theory was to convince the bottom tier of the workforce that they were responsible for the success of the company. We thought that they’d “buy in” to that concept and just run things the way we wanted them to. We’re not exactly sure what went wrong. This was a great strategy to save on salaries and benefits. Maybe the workers just couldn’t grasp the brilliance of the concept. Anyway, they started asking us to solve all their petty day-to-day problems and get involved with interdepartmental issues and the like. Things were grinding to a standstill. We couldn’t waste our valuable time on that. The workers claimed that they did not have the authority to fix any of this on their own and they dumped it all back on us. Authority? That’s our domain. We couldn’t just hand out authority like work gloves or office supplies. We wanted to hold them responsible, not give them any of our authority.

So it was back to the drawing board with this middle management stuff. We needed a method to get the workers’ problems off our backs but still save on cost. We devised a brilliantly sinister plan called “Salary Norming.” Here’s how it works. We’ve learned that we need few well-placed midlevel management types to run interference for us with the workers. Besides, who wants to do all the legwork associated with rolling out the new strategies and other programs we dream up? With fewer people to cajole, we can more easily convince these middle managers to “buy in” to the idea that they are responsible for the success of the company. We can give them some limited authority but must make sure that real power remains with us.

The first step in reducing these costs is to view them differently. Start by developing a “standard” rate per hour for middle managers. Everyone is used to looking at our direct labor force on a cost per hour basis. The concept of a rate per hour always has a lot of appeal with the finance people. They’ll support this. The operations folks are always fixated on controlling rates per hour. They’ll support it as well. The Human Resources Department? They don’t count. Just ignore them. So how do you set a standard rate? We looked at the technical staff people around our test company. They’re salaried and exempt from overtime. What would we do without IT types, accountants, engineers, etc? We’ve never looked at that group on a cost per hour basis but it was time to start. We secretly calculated the average cost per hour for that group to be $20/hr. for approx. 2,000 working hours a year. (Whew, that’s $40,000 a year. We didn’t know that we paying them that much!) Now that we had our standard, we moved on to the middle managers. That group ranged from $60,000 to $90,000 dollars per year with a rate of $30 to $45 per hour for the same 2000 hours. Ridiculous! No middle manager is worth more than a programmer or an accountant. We’re not paying these people for their experience in managing people and solving day to day problems, we’re paying them to work.

Next, begin to reduce the gap between the hourly rates of the two groups by making the middle managers work more hours. Expect, no demand, a $60,000 per year manager to work 3,000 hours, a $70,000 per year manager 3,500 hours and so forth. Why a $90,000 per manager will have to work 4,500 hours to make the $20/hr. standard! There are lots of things that you can pile on these managers to keep them busy. Delegate, delegate, delegate! Keep pushing things down. Resist any attempt to add more middle management. Ensure that the ones you have earn every cent. Constantly remind them that they have “bought in” to the fact that they are responsible for the success of the company.

Now for the best part! Once these managers start putting in horrific hours, they’ll look to their salaried direct reports for help and make them work more hours as well. Hell, you might even get the total cost per hour for the entire salaried workforce down to $15 per hour!

Think about the charts and graphs that will reveal your brilliance!


2 Responses to “Some Fun Reading from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives”

  1. Mr Angry Says:

    I wish I could tell in advance which companies pass this manual out to their senior management. It would save many hours of pain and torment down the line if I knew not to take the job in the first place.

  2. Kent Blumberg Says:

    I think you might be onto a fun way to communicate some tough truths about some managers. A well-written fable is a great teaching tool.

    I enjoyed this one.


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