Friday, August 26, 2011

Management is a cow

Reading Owen Glenn's Opinion piece in today's Herald reminds me just how much apologising and sucking up the Labour Party have ahead of them to get this man back on their side.

The column was partly a response to Federated Farmers' new talking head lamenting the over-taxation of farmers. Glenn reckons you can't throw out the colostrum with the calves, and that NZ's future lies in embracing both new tech as well as old McDonald's farm.

Since the farmers aren't investing in R&D, it'll have to be funded through taxation. If that means cow belches are carbon taxed, so be it. That'll help pay for Massey Uni and the CRIs doing the farmers' hard yakka looking for less gaseous-inducing clover and feeds.

The farming sector is a good example of a more endemic problem in NZ. It was highlighted by the blow-up a couple of years ago with NZ's biggest dairy farmer at the time, Crafar Farms. Allan Crafar led the serial polluting, animal abusing pack with his novelty cow calculator helping him keep on top of his crumbling empire.

No-one connected to Crafar Farms came out looking good; Federated Farmers, Fonterra, the banks. Allan Crafar remains the poster boy for the NZ tradition of shitty management.

NZers are poor resource managers, be it animal, vegetable or mineral. As Tim Watkin points out in this Q&A blog on innovation, NZers have great ideas but hopeless follow-through. NZ managers are generally shit staff retainers or trainers and have utterly shitty people skills.

I don't mean we should suddenly embrace American Management Theory wholesale. That's a crock of shit too, just sweeter smelling shit. I don't mean we should go all out to entice all those good ex-pat Kiwi managers back here. They'll come home when they're good and ready. Besides, there's enough good ex-pats back here already who can't make headway as it is.

There's a whole class of NZ managers who realise their underlings have a better handle on things than them. Rather than reward that potential, these younger ones are seen as threats to the existing manager's position. So they are buried. I call it Crafar's Confidence. Or Hubbard's Hubris. Take your pick.

The main uplift in NZ's export fortunes lies not in cutting the peasants' wages further or excluding farmers or other businesses from taxation. It lies in making the most of your domestic herd of human capital. That means getting smarter in  the area that makes or breaks a business; those decision-makers in management.