What’s IMO, (Investing in Managerial Ego)? Peter Drucker explains the concept: “…make sure [development products] do not turn into the worst of all product categories: investments in managerial ego” [MANAGING FOR RESULTS, by Peter F. Drucker. Harper & Row. p. 55. 1964.]
This bit of wisdom comes from the world’s foremost management consultant. Ignore it at your own peril. Where Drucker refers to “development products”, I’ve discovered during my work with my pro-bono clients that investment into managerial ego, (IMO), is not limited to development products. It extends to almost everything where the manager, the business owner, keeps pushing a “dead horse”. This applies to anything where resources are continuing to be invested though considerable resource investment has failed to bring about the expected results. This failure of expectations, in my dealings with my clients, has occurred in areas as diverse as: technologies, services, campaigns, store locations, signs, advertising, authority over employees, market research, market segmentation, and even entire business models. This notion of investments in managerial ego is applicable to just about everything. Every decision. Every interaction in business. It is one of the first things I tune my proverbial antenna to. And I usually find plenty of it.
In that same work, Drucker describes the investment into managerial ego, (IMO), as “the degenerative disease”. I think of it more along the lines of not merely degenerative, but DEADLY. I’ve witnessed it cause the waste of multi-millions of dollars in useless research, the loss of multi-million market shares, disruption, misdirection of campaigns, and the bankruptcy of businesses. I think of it as an insidious disease, a virus, of sorts that plagues the thinking of business owners who lack the checks and balances of big organizational hierarchies. But even big organizations have plenty of IMO issues.
How do you recognize and combat IMO? Once you locate the IMO problem or the IMO influence, the solutions almost suggest themselves. So, let’s focus on uncovering SOME of the potential problem areas.
How do you locate potential IMO problems? Seek out what I call, “resource fixations instead of flexibilities” and you can spot them by identifying the GAP between expectations and targets versus actual results, after a reasonable effort has been made. I’ve heard commitments such as, “If only we invest more resources…”. I’ve witnessed and tried hard to change wasted time, money, people’s talents, team efforts, and all manner of inputs. When profit targets are consistently missed, one has to assume corrective actions were taken along the way and that people engaged tried their best. Time to move on. If a target market fails to meet expectations, month after month, and if various elements have been changed but the target market remains insufficient. Time to move on.
When IMO drives decisions, there is no arguing with Drucker that, “Managers are also the costliest resources of the enterprise.” He clearly states that there is great danger in areas that nearly succeed and where the temptation is high to put more resources into it and to keep trying to get the results to hit expectations. Focus and intensity are not always the solutions to strategies or products that are inherently inadequate or downright wrong.
I’ve also witnessed what I must label as “IMO Blockage”. Blocking, derailing, undermining, or neutralizing, the purposeful utilization of good resources or talented employees. I pick up on this when I hear statements such as, “I don’t ‘like’ that…”, “attitude”, “I’m the boss”, “want them to do it my way” and so on. It is clearly detectable because of the unbalanced emphasis on the owner or manager insisting on having it his or her own way. That leaves little room for employee creativity. There are always multiple ways of delivering successful results. The IMO Block tends to interfere with creative options from one’s staff.
Beware of IMO. Don’t second-guess your decisions, but do be sensitive to “too much me” in your thinking. Let the facts speak for themselves, and certainly let the failure to achieve REAL-WORLD RESULTS against your expectations DICTATE YOUR PLANS. Not just ego.