Blogger’s note: This is the second installment in a series of posts describing my experiences at the Academy of Management’s 2016 Annual meeting in Anaheim, CA (August 5-9). For the first installment (a short video post), please click here.


 

So I’m back from Anaheim.

As you may recall, I was there earlier this month attending the annual gathering of the Academy of Management—or AOM—which is the “preeminent organization for management and organization scholars,” according to the organization’s website. Approximately 10,000 such scholars were in fact in attendance,[1] and according to the conference program, 3576 papers, 964 symposia, and 384 PDWs (Professional Development Workshops) were presented or held over the conference’s five days.[2]

You might also remember that my stated goal in going there was to ask other conference-goers a few, perhaps pointed questions about managing. These are questions that, in the past, I’ve referred to as some of management’s oldest and most basic questions,[3] and which have yet to be satisfactorily answered so far as I can tell.

So what better venue at which to ask them?

For example:

  • If the roles of “advisor” and “evaluator” are incompatible with each other,[4] why are managers expected to serve as both with respect to their subordinates?
  • If those closest to a problem are typically best suited to solve it,[5] why are employees routinely denied the authority to resolve those problems that prevent them from doing their best work?
  • And why are good managers so ****-ing hard to find?[6]

(For a complete list of the questions I planned to ask, please see my post from two weeks ago: “’Live’ from the Academy of Management’s 2016 Annual Meeting.”)

And I did – I put those questions to as many people as I could. And I’ll get to some of their responses in my next post.

First, however, I feel like I need to acknowledge that I was asked many more questions than I was able to pose in return. So before I go any further, I’d like to devote this short post to answering a few of the most frequently asked questions about myself and my blog from that week:

 

1. What’s your blog about?

Managing.

 

2. How do you mean..?

You know – managing. Managing people.

[It turns out that this question really isn’t as stupid as it sounds. In the world of management theory and organizational studies, to say you’re interested in, or write about just “managing” doesn’t really register. It’s considered far too broad a topic, so it just doesn’t compute. As evidence of this, consider that the AOM boasts some 25-odd divisions, interest groups, and other sub-specialties—all management-related, mind you—including: Operations Management (OM), International Management (IM), Conflict Management (CM), Management Education and Development (MED), Business Policy and Strategy (BPS), Organizational Behavior (OB), and Critical Management Studies (CMS).[7] But for me, it really is just that simple. Managing is managing.]

 

3. Who’s your target audience?

Anyone who is, has been, or would like to become a manager. Or anyone who’s ever had a bad manager, or has been mismanaged in some way. Basically, I feel like my blog might appeal to anyone who’s ever had a job.

 

4. How often do you post?

Once a week. My blog is a bit unconventional in that respect – I don’t post every day because my posts tend to be a bit longer than what could be considered typical for a blog (the length of a magazine article, as opposed to just a paragraph or two), and I don’t want to overwhelm my readers. Also, I don’t want to overwhelm myself (I really wish I were a faster writer.)

 

5. Do you host guest bloggers?

Actually, I hadn’t considered it – but hey, I’m game. So if you’d like to write a “guest post” on the topic of your choosing (management-related, of course), you can submit your idea through the contact page on the site, or just email me at insubordinate@insubordinationblog.com.

 

6. What college/university are you affiliated with?

I’m not. I’m not even an academic. I got interested in managing when I became a manager myself, and because at times in my career I’ve been poorly managed. As a result, I like to think that I offer a “practioner’s” view of managing, as opposed to that of an academic, consultant, or theoretician. I also believe I offer a much needed counter-perspective to the conventional management writer/blogger: that of someone who’s been on the receiving end of management’s misguided practices and policies, as opposed to the CEOs or executive managers who engage in, or come up with them. And my approach to managing is that of a scientist – very much so, in fact (see next question).

 

7. You have a PhD. What did you study?

Organic chemistry. I graduated from Imperial College (University of London) in 1995 with a PhD (D.I.C.) in “synthetic organic chemistry,” to be precise. I also have a Master’s degree in the same subject (Colorado State University), and Bachelor’s degrees in both Chemistry and Chemical Engineering (University of Minnesota). For much of my career I was employed as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry.

 

8. Why did you start writing about managing?

I ran into a bad manager at my job and now, after a lot of reading, I believe I’ve figured out why good managers are so few and far between.

 

9. Why are you here in Anaheim?

Three reasons, actually.

  • To build readership for my blog.
  • To talk to publishers about my book. I didn’t bring it up much in Anaheim because it’s still a work in progress, but this text does serve as the basis of much of what I write about in my blog. (Please see the Main Series posts). So if you’re an agent or publisher, and would like to learn more about this project—which is nearing completion—please feel free to email me at publish@insubordinationblog.com.
  • To offer my services as a guest lecturer. For those of you who teach business or management courses at the collegiate or graduate level, I lecture on a few special topics that may be of interest to you. One is a critical analysis of mainstream management advice books that, in my opinion at least, is both entertaining and insightful. (For the substance of this lecture, please see my series of posts: “Why you can throw out that management advice book – Parts 1,2,&3.”) I also offer a similar critique of “conventional management wisdom” (please see: “Is nothing sacred?”) – and I’m developing an analysis/critique of the so-called “contingency theory of management” (please see: “Why that MBA might not be worth as much as you think”). If you’re at all interested in having me speak to your class or students, please feel free to use the contact page on this site to get in touch with me, or just shoot me an email at insubordinate@insubordinationblog.com.

 

Oh, yeah – my main reason for being in Anaheim was of course to ask conference-goers those questions about managing that I mentioned earlier.

And I’ll get to some of their responses next week…

 

 

Endnotes

[1] 10,405 according to Meetings Coordinator Megan Johnson.

[2] AOM 2016 Meeting Program, p. 57.

[3] Please see my post: “Why your boss probably sucks.”

[4] Hill, Linda. 2003. Becoming a Manager. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, p. 209.

[5] Peters, Tom, and Robert Waterman. 1982. In Search of Excellence. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

[6] According to the Gallup Organization, 82% of all managers have been “miscast” in the role, while only 1 in 10 people have “the natural, God-given talent to manage a team of people.” From “The State of the American Manager.” (03/27/2015) Downloaded from http://www.gallup.com/services/182138/state-american-manager.aspx.

[7] AOM 2016 Meeting Program, p. 58.