Ackoff’s 95% (Cannot manage them the same way)

I’m currently cleaning up my trusty old Mac Mini G4. I’ve been cleaning out old stuff I don’t need to save, and a few days ago I installed a cheap 1 gig of memory. That upgrade did not make the machine notably faster. Today, however, I ran a bunch of maintenance tools, which seemed to do the trick. There’s a noticeable improvement in the speed of the little things, like how long it takes to fold out a menu. There was a delay before, and now it seems to be gone. Hope it lasts.

Energized by my success in speeding up the old can, I started another round of file cleaning. I found an old NeoOffice file called “Russ Ackoff – 95 Percent”. Because NeoOffice has always been extremely slow on this old machine, I wanted to see how fast I could open it. That, and the fact that I’m always interested in Ackoff’s teachings.

NeoOffice turned out to be as slow as before, but the file contained pure gold. Not new gold, but pure gold. In it was a little piece of knowledge that I’ve been using in my scrum master classes for a few years, ever since I came across it on the web.

Here are the contents of the file, which I remember transcribing from a sound file as I listened to it:


1900 – 95% of the people in the US could not do the job as well as their bosses could.

If the foreman retires from a group, you pick the best man to become the new foreman.

He can thus do the job better than any of his subordinates.

He will continue to rise as long as he is the best in the group.

All managers thus rise to the level of their own incompetence.

Today, 95% of the people can do their job better than their bosses.

You cannot manage them the same way.

Don’t manage what they do – manage the way they interact.

Requires different organization, and a different type of management.”

Published by Tobias Fors

I'm a software management consultant. I help other people succeed with software development. In my work, I help teams and organizations be more effective and ship software.