The Apprentice started a new season on BBC Wednesday night. Along with it will come lunch-time conversations and news updates on firings. Iâve always been a big fan. I really enjoyed watching it last year.
This year, with all thatâs going on in the economy, I donât want to watch it.
I donât want to see project managers argue with each other and posture and demonstrate how their leadership skills are better than the others. I donât want to watch Alan Sugar on his big boat or the winning teams who get pampered because they won a task.
Every day, there are more stories in the news about people who are losing their jobs and their homes. There are people struggling, and the rest of us are wondering how long until it gets us. Some people are questioning whether our society is living beyond its means. Others are waiting for the good old days to come back.
Iâm all for business, but I donât want to go back to 5 years ago when everyone was starting their own consulting businesses. Iâve gotten swept up in this too.
I used to go to networking events for ECademy, which turned out to be giant orgies of people trying to promote themselves. I was there to talk to people about Overpass, and they were there to talk about their own companies. Everyone was trying to sell to each other. I met people who promised they could get my site to the top of Google (without knowing what keywords I wanted or what my business actually is). I met so many people who decided one day to be a life coach without having any skills to support it (except for the fluff "people person who caresâ skillsâ).
It has gotten to the point that no one has any skills any more.
There have always been managers and executors. In the Army, the enlisted men were managers and the officers were delegators. Officers had a skill of telling people to do things they couldnât do themselves. Officers were pampered as strategic thinkers. Enlisted men couldnât stand them. 40 year-old First Sergeants would have to salute 20 year-old lieutenants. It never seemed right.
If you visit a garage, it is easy to see the division between skill and management. Managers are customer-facing and tell the others what to do, but they may not be able to do it themselves. They may have been very good at fixing cars one day a long time ago, but have fallen out of practice. If there are lay-offs, the manager will probably stay. The skilled labour will go.
I see this a lot in my current profession. At various jobs, I meet project managers or business analysts who donât understand what I do. They consider me their resource. I canât tell you how many times a project manager has said, âI started out as a programmer, so . . . â and tell me about how they coded VB4 back in 95 but couldnât do it today. I had one PM tell me, âI could write that sql, but Iâm a project manager now, so that would be taking a step back for me.â How could you not be insulted by that? Since when did Project Manager become the next promotion step for developer? Iâve turned down Business Analyst opportunities before.
Everyone wants to be a manager. Everyone wants to be a consultant. Everyone wants to call themselves a leader. We are running out of people who canâdoâ. We are losing those who can execute.
Tom Peters, one of my favourite management gurus, has a great quotes âYou donât promote your most talented violinist to conductorâ. The Peter Principle (different Peter here) states that, âYou are promoted to your level of incompetency.â
From where I sit, however cynical it may be, I see the massive layoffs as a big hit to our ability to execute. While the mass skilled staff who donât sit at board room tables or in meetings are being layed off, the managers are trying to make the case for why they should stay. We donât need more managers, we need more do-ers.
This is why I canât stomach the Apprentice this year. Iâm not up for it. Too many people are losing everything, and I donât want to see a bunch of un-skilled managers (I donât think management is a skill) argue with each other so they can get their dream job.
I guess this is MY populist rant.
Thursday, I went to lunch with a bunch of friends where conversation turned to the Apprentice. I sat quietly. Apparently, so-and-so deserved it and so-and-so was very rude. I canât be bothered.
Maybe next year.