WHEN A CRICKETER reaches 100 runs, they have the chance to reflect on what they have achieved, but also to take a “fresh guard” so they are ready for the challenges that await. So a 100th Bartleby column represents a chance to consider what this writer has learned so far, and how much he still needs to find out.
Perhaps the most remarkable discovery was how much is written about management. Back at The Economist’s offices, books are piled high by Bartleby’s desk; so many that it would be impossible to read them all. Either the laws of supply and demand are broken, or there is a huge appetite to learn how to manage.
Admittedly, many of these books are hard to read. The authors use “architect” as a verb and “learnings” as a noun. They randomly Capitalise every Other word. And they are overly fond of PEAs (pointless esoteric acronyms).
The sheer variety of advice suggests that the task of managing people in the modern era is rather difficult. Early management theory was largely concerned with maximising the output of manufacturing workers, and tended to treat people as recalcitrant cogs in a machine. The output of such workers was easy to measure; it was all a matter of producing more widgets per hour.
The modern economy is dominated by the service sector where measuring productivity…