Mark McDonald

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Mark P. McDonald
8 years at Gartner
24 years IT industry

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a former group vice president and head of research in Gartner Executive Programs. He is the co-author of The Social Organization with Anthony Bradley. Read Full Bio

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Signs of weak management

by Mark P. McDonald  |  July 17, 2009  |  18 Comments

I may get in trouble for this but here are some personal observations about management going on in companies.  This is all personal observation.

Stress brings out the best and worst of people and organizations enabling you to see either the cracks beneath the veneer or a core strength.  The strength of your management team is one of the things that show up best in this stress.

How do you know that you have a weak management team?

Here are some observations presented a little tongue – n – cheek:

  • Blame storming – as meetings admire the problem groups as the sit around describing how things got this way and who should be responsible.  (Note: borrowing from a Comcast TV ad)
  • Little Red Hen - “not I said the executive” exists where there are high levels of responsibility with little to no accountability
  • Strategic constipation – where everyone knows what has to be done, they feel the pressure but no one is willing to go first
  • Working your way stupid – where the more the company does the less intelligence and knowledge they create either through an unwillingness to learn or a dogged determination to do the same thing and expect a different result.
  • Heard it on the grapevine — the rumor mill is most accurate source of information as either official communications read like a G8 resolution (don’t say much) or they are so late in coming out that they are irrelevant.
  • Management by McCarthyism – the pursuit and branding of people based on their past relationships or involvements in projects.
  • Sophie’s list metrics – “the truth what is the truth” the definition of what is good changes to the point that it loses connection with reality.

I am sure that there are others and I will try update the post as more come to mind. I have been advised to think about writing shorter blog entries, which is a good idea so I will try to take at least one of these on in detail in future posts.

Remember that these these posts are personal observation and are a bit acerbic in their tone, so they do not reflect the views of Gartner or the Gartner Blog Network. I will also post the more radical responses on my personal blog at

What are the signs you see of weak management?  How would you describe them?  And what can you do about them?



Category: Personal Observation Signs of weak management Strategy     Tags: , , , ,

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Andrew Meyer   July 19, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Great post!

    Following your lead, here are a few indications of weak management I’ve seen (and occasionally engaged in or benefited from)

    Wizards from Oz: Consultants paid to say or do things management doesn’t want to say or do themselves.

    Good Time Girls: Only talking the upside of projects and never mentioning the costs/ramifications/problems/ROI.

    Persistent Petes: People who continually suggest projects until their managers feel sorry for them or are too tired of saying no, so they allow the project to start knowing full well it’s purposeless or going to die sooner or later.

    The Me Toos: Every other kid got a project, I never get projects, why don’t I get one?

    The Rasputins: Usually technologists who are so carried away and passionate about something that people sign off on it just because they are so excited – the fact that they have no idea what the person wants to do somehow doesn’t seem to matter.

  • 2 Mark McDonald   July 20, 2009 at 12:50 pm


    Thanks for your additions to the list they are very interesting. Do you mind if I add them to the list? Also it would be great if you could comment on these and more importantly how to combat these signs of weak management.


  • 3 Andrew Meyer   July 20, 2009 at 12:57 pm


    I’d please honored if you added them to the list.

    I can put together a list of how I combat them and send it to you. There’s only one exception. I can’t combat them where they apply to me. I’m not that evolved of a caveman.


  • 4 Mark McDonald   July 20, 2009 at 1:16 pm


    I would appreciate your ideas on how to combat the signs you have in your list and fold them into this blog-line with proper attribution of course.

    Your comment brings out an important point in that we are all weak managers at times, but the fact that we recognize the times when we are weaker managers is an important start.

    Look forward to your list and ideas — if you want my email is mark.mcdonald “at”


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