I Hate Pop Management Psychology

Nov 28, 2005

As most long-time readers of The Zweig Letter know, I can’t stand it when someone quotes the latest pop management book or article. The authors are always a little too smug in the universal applicability of their overly simple solutions to complex problems. Even worse is when they propose no solution and just characterize people or problems as fitting into a neat description with a catchy title. When I hear someone say, “You’re a thinker-feeler and therefore you would understand where I’m coming from,” I want to throw up. And I never liked buzzwords. Whether it’s an acronym like TQM or a catchphrase such as “one minute manager” or “who stole my cheese?” they turn people off— at least they turn off smart people. I have always tried (but unfortunately not always succeeded!) to get our people at ZweigWhite to understand that we need to practice our own management philosophy and not just be a mouthpiece for some other guy who may not know a thing about the architecture, engineering, planning, or environmental business. Our approach to making firms more successful must be based on our intense involvement with the industry at all levels— complete immersion and total dedication to one industry. Continuous research on firms, the needs and preferences of the clients those firms serve, the markets and how they are changing, and the individuals who make up the industry has to be the basis for the conclusions we come to. Occasionally, I run into people in this business, principals of firms, who turn into management junkies. They’ll read a business book they bought at an airport newsstand and start believing that they’ve found some sort of new gospel. They’ll try to work it into every facet of their firms and every dealing with an employee. I have never seen one of these people or approaches last. Either their other partners get so sick of the B.S. and run them off, they get frustrated with a lack of shared enthusiasm from their peers, or they give up on their gospel entirely, dropping it to try out another one. Sometimes they even get almost schizophrenic in their wild swings from one new philosophy to another. And while they consider themselves the only true thinkers in their group, to most of their peers and the outside world, they look like fools. Let me add one other thing. Some would have you believe that I am close-minded, not open to new ideas or approaches. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have changed my opinions and my mind on things many times over the years. I am learning new things every day. But that learning is based on a dedicated focus and study of one type of business (yours) for more than 25 years. I rely on my own eyes and ears and brain to synthesize what works and what doesn’t for A/E/P and environmental firms. I rely on 18 annual surveys on firms in our industry, each with hundreds of participants. I rely on literally hundreds of consulting projects that are performed each year for firms of every size and type in this business. I rely on dozens of market studies, thousands of client interviews, and countless interactions with suppliers to firms in our business. I rely on financial analysis performed by people who know our business and who have comparative data second to none. These are the places that we look for our management philosophy. And we will bring that to you in a clear, concise, and coherent manner so you can carry the best of it down to the rest of your people. And that’s why I hate pop management psychology! Originally published 11/28/05

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.