This is really starting to bug me… yet again I’ve received an email from someone who lists their title as
Senior Associate Manager of…
Give me a break. So you finally made "manager" (woo hoo! you get to wear a tie!)… but you’re still an "associate"… and you’ve put in a little time so you’re "senior." Let me see… there’s a permutation in here somewhere. I can just sense it.
Assuming there’s both "junior" and "senior" (presumably there isn’t a "middle-aged"), and "associate" and "full" and probably "senior"… that would be 2x2x2=8 levels just for that manager. That’s getting as bad as the grade/step nonsense of the government.
Who cares? Or perhaps I’m just a wee bit overly cynical ever since I visited that company in Florida that had no titles except "plant manager"… the dude that was charged with watering the plants. No, not a rinky-dink group of college kids… this was a $170 million multi-site company employing over 1,000 people. And it worked.
No job titles… that’s one extreme. At the other end are banks… and apparently Yahoo! If they really have "300-odd" vice presidents it is no wonder they can’t get anything done, and why Microsoft may have been smart to run away screaming from the merger proposal after they did a little due diligence. Not that I imagine Microsoft is much better.
Recently I was having a beer with a fellow lean guy and we discussed the fact that there were only two types of people in a lean organization: leaders and executers. Actually after another beer that last one became "executioner" but we can’t rationalize that title yet. We barely remember it anyway. Further into the discussion I seem to remember that we concluded that everyone was a leader but we should be focusing outward, not controlling inward, therefore there was really only one function: Value Creator."
Sure, titles can help define how an organization is structured, especially to an outsider. But they also define how an organization works, what it believes in, its ego, rigidity… you get the picture. So when I see a title like "senior associate manager of…" I immediately picture a person yearning to climb the latter, "managing" instead of "leading," and constrained to a very narrow window of operational latitude.
I challenge you to remove all instances of "senior," "junior," "associate," and "executive" from titles. I then challenge you to change "manager" to "leader." Demonstrate your commitment to lean manufacturing by throwing in a "value" or two.
I bet you’ll be amazed at the effect it will have on the culture of your organization.