As a nation, we’re less suffering from an epidemic of entitlement, let alone generational entitlement, than from a surplus of blame-shifting. As suggested in this space a couple of weeks ago (“Equivalencytown, 6/27/2022), the Embedded Technology Generation (ETG, aka Generation Z, Digital Natives, and the iGeneration), aren’t so much entitled as they are better negotiators than their predecessors.

If we’re going to take a group and stereotype it as entitled, we all might benefit by buying a mirror, because business managers, as a group, might deserve the term more than the generational cohorts they manage or aspire to managing.

Entitled managers think they’re entitled (hence the name) to employees who are highly self-motivated, resolve their frictions with other employees without managerial involvement, deal with barriers to getting the job done on their own, cheerfully work unpaid hours … they’re classified as “exempt” … because they’re committed to their department’s success, and accept without complaint annual salary increases less than the rate of inflation because the company standard raise for staff-level employees and front-line supervisors has been set at 2% and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Put another way, the Entitled Manager (sounds like a book title, doesn’t it?) is a problem in recursion: failing to take responsibility for fixing what they complain about.

At its roots, managerial entitlement comes from failing to understand the role leadership plays in managing employees effectively.

Management, as a profession, is the organization as machine. It’s about organizing the work, establishing mechanisms for tracking and control, and dealing with administrivia. As a shopworn metaphor accurately describes the situation, employees are, from the perspective of managing, cogs in the machine.

Leadership, as long-time readers (and especially those enlightened souls who have read Leading IT: <Still> the Toughest Job in the World) know, is about building an organization that succeeds on its own, without the leader’s day-to-day involvement.

Good managers recognize the importance of leading well because it’s leadership that results in individuals and teams bringing their A Game to the party thrown by management every day.

In particular, effective leaders recognize the pernicious effect of treating individuals as stereotyped members of a labeled group.

Stereotyping individuals doesn’t just demotivate the members of the group on which the stereotype is conferred. It demotivates the manager as well.

Because if one of my team members is Generation H (to pick a letter at random), why should I even try to motivate them. It’s hopeless.

Which becomes a vicious feedback loop, where the manager doesn’t try; because the manager doesn’t try the GenH-er doesn’t think the manager cares and so doesn’t make much of an effort either; and because the GenH-er doesn’t make much of an effort the manager doesn’t try. Rinse and repeat.

Bob’s last word: There’s an easy, two-step way to break the stereotyping that causes this vicious cycle. The first step is to get to know people as individuals instead of as members of a group. If you do this you’ll gain an understanding of what they actually want out of their job.

The second is to think of what you now know they want, not as a symptom of their entitled selves, but as the opening salvo of an ongoing negotiation.

The difference: Entitled people think they deserve something. Negotiators understand how to deserve something.

Bob’s sales pitch: Most weeks I root around in my KJR topics cellar, looking for something to write about. It might be something I ran across once upon a time, liked, and decided to share. Other times it’s something that annoyed me enough that I kicked it down my mental basement stairs.

But I’m not such a victim of the Not Invented Here By Me syndrome that I’m closed to subjects other members of the KJR community liked or were annoyed by.

So if there’s something you’ve run across you’d like me to give the KJR treatment to, please don’t hesitate to share it. And when you do let me know if you’d like credit for pointing it out.

You will, that is, be entitled (this is the sales pitch part) to the fame and fortune that comes with it.

Currently running in the CIO Survival Guide:The XaaS trap: ‘Everything as a service’ isn’t anything IT really needs.”

This week I’m declaring my independence from having to write a new KJR entry. Don’t worry, not forever. Just this week, when I’m taking advantage of the KJR Reruns Policy, which states that:

  • Whenever I want I can substitute a re-run for a new column, and …
  • Whenever I substitute a re-run for a new column, you’re free to not read it (which freedom, of course, you also enjoy for new postings).

But I think you should read (or re-read?) this one. It’s from two decades ago, titled, “Battling to achieve strategic change,” and is just as relevant today as it was back then.

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful as you battle to achieve strategic change.

Bob

# # #

Maybe it’s just semantics.

A bunch of readers commented on my recent column asserting that CIOs and CTOs should spend most of their energy dealing with strategic and tactical matters, delegating infrastructure, (which I equated to the military concept of logistics), to others.

Among the comments: “Amateurs talk strategy, professionals discuss logistics.” This correspondent, along with quite a few others, mentioned a number of examples in which bad logistics lost battles. I agree: Bad logistics can lose battles, as when the Spanish Armada literally ran out of ammunition fighting the British fleet, which was able to re-supply since the entire engagement was fought in the English Channel. But this misses the point. Of course bad logistics can lose battles. That doesn’t mean great logistics can win them.

The lesson for you: Bad infrastructure can make even the best applications unavailable. Great infrastructure is invisible. Do you want to be invisible unless there’s a problem? I didn’t think so. Delegate infrastructure; focus your attention on strategy and tactics.

Or maybe on “Operations” in its military sense. IS Survivalist Ralph Hitchens informs me that military theorists have added this as a fourth level of military planning.

Above it all is the non-military concept of “policy.” “We’re going to stamp out terrorism,” is an example — a national goal which military action can help advance. “Strategy” determines the overall objectives of military action and identifies the major campaigns that should be fought to achieve them so as to help achieve policy. “Operations” decides which battles to fight and how to deploy forces to fight them to win campaigns.

Organizing business change has significant similarities. Enterprise-scale change corresponds to the strategic level of planning. Call the organized effort of achieving strategic change a “program.” Since “operations” would inevitably be confused with running a data center, let’s call the next-lower level of change “business outcomes” and call the organized effort of achieving them “initiatives.”

Then there’s tactics — the specific plan of action military officers create to win battles. What might that correspond to in IT terms?

Tactics corresponds to projects, in more ways than one. In terms of military action, it’s hard to be sure if you’re really achieving your strategy, or even if you’re attaining your operational goals. Likewise in business. Whether the topic is combat or project management, you can be very sure if you’ve won the battle.

It’s up to someone else to win the war.