Licensee BadgeTraining Badge
Submitted by timbarcz on


 First, I love MT - I am a premium subscriber and have bought several of the products.


i can't help but wonder if some of this advice is "old world" or aimed at large companies (who are typically slower and there more "old world"). People are far more mobile than they used to. Companies are flatter than they used to. People are freer than they used to be.

That being said while much of MT is very good sound advice, it is also Safe, which is okay except when its counter to you or the organization you (and the org) seek to build.


Is MT best served in Very Large Organizations (VLO)?


For example, I hesitate going to my boss and HR group to question my effectiveness and how I can contribute better because of stigma. I'm a passionate well-promoted individual over the years (in a group of all managers and higher (I'm a director) in a multi-company/multi-divisional group I am the youngest). I don't want to appear whiny but I don't think I am wrong (nor would my track record support I'm wrong).


So...MT works but is it best in Fortune 500 type companies? And while it works everywhere, should some things be broken/challenge (in the right context) in the name of organizational improvement?

GlennR's picture

I have been a manager of staff and volunteers since 1977. I have spent the bulk of that time in the nonprofit sector in a large organization with a very corporate environment. I have also spent five years in the business sector in outside sales and retail sales and management. At age 60 I am seriously considering starting my own business, where, in the beginning I will be the sole employee.

I am a near charter member of MT having discovered them in December of 2005(?) if that's the year they started.

If I choose to start my own business, I will implement MT practices on day one. I believe the size of the organization has nothing to do with the effectiveness of MT principles. (Okay, I'll say it: "Size does not matter.")

Where MT may be less effective is in those cultures that depart from the norm. But even then I would guess that it would only be the minor things that wouldn't matter. For example, if you're in a start up where creativity is highly regarded, is the color of your moleskine or carry on luggage as important as if you worked for a large financial corporation? Probably not.

I think I've heard Mark say something like, "90% of what we suggest is applicable 90% of the time. So even in larger corporations there will be extenuating circumstances.

But go back and look at Horstman's Laws. I would suggest they apply to all organizations with two or more people. Most of what MT advocates is based upon the building of effective relationships and the ability to focus on producing (and providing evidence of) results.

Listening to MT and participating in the forums has improved my effectiveness and efficiency as a manager starting with the trinity. Here I was also exposed to GTD, to Evernote's GTD system, and to dozens of other good ideas and good books.

In your example, consider a paradigm other than size. Perhaps lack of experience is a greater factor. Perhaps it's something else.

I recommend you seek out an executive coach. Go external if your company does not have a well run program. External coaches must be paid, but if you get a good one, you'll be very happy with your ROI.

Good luck to you, keep asking great questions,


(Still waiting patiently for two t-shirts, "Drucker Rocks!" and "Manager-Tools Rock!")

timbarcz's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge



Thank you for your feedback.  What a great way to start a Friday - thank you.

timbarcz's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

 To resurrect this idea a bit - here's an excerpt from a recent article by Tim O'Reilly titled "How I Failed" (Full Article)


(Emphasis added is my own to align with this thread)

"...I complained, but I eventually gave in. As we grew, it was harder and harder to maintain our informal processes. (I remember a real inflection point at about 50-60 employees, and another at about 100.) We gradually gave up our homegrown way of doing things, and accepted normal HR practices — vacation and sick days, regular reviews, annual salary adjustments — and bit by bit, I let the “HR professionals” take over the job of framing and managing the internal culture. That was a mistake.

I’ve often regretted that I hadn’t kept fighting with the lawyers, working harder to balance all the legal requirements (many of them well-intentioned but designed for a top-down command and control culture) with my vision of how a company really ought to work. I focused my energy on product, marketing, finance, and strategy, and didn’t put enough time in to make sure I was building the organization I wanted.

Reading recently about the HR practices at Valve and Github, so reminiscent of early O’Reilly, I’m struck by the need to redefine how organizations work in the 21st century. I’m not saying that Valve or GitHub’s approach is for everyone, but they indicate a deep engagement with the problem space, and fresh approaches to the questions of how to manage an organization.Google’s People Analytics may be a more scalable application of new HR thinking to a company of serious size.

The point is that while there’s a lot of accumulated wisdom in how to run a company, there’s a lot still to be invented, and you should bring the same entrepreneurial energy to improving the culture as you do to improving the product or your approach to the market...."


So here's some support of my original question - you can "play along" with how things are today, but how many people are yearning to be part of something different? Most people are disengaged at their current job.  They wish for something different.  And so again MT is safe (a la "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM").

Curious on thoughts here...



naraa's picture
Training Badge

Hi Femantim,

I am a listener of MT since 2007.  At the time up to 2012 I worked for a small engineering company in Chile.  We grew from about 40 to 150 during those 5 years.  And I have seen the processes you mentioned from homegrown way of doing things to HR practices.  The problem in not maintaining the culture of a small company, where everybody knows and cares about each other, and everyone helps towards the company´s goals every way they can, has not been with the framing of the organisation.  The problem has been precisely the lack of good management practices, such as O3´s, coaching and feedback (MT) which were not done by all managers.  The results was that people who, at the start of the company, were close to the founders, became further from them, and new people never got the message of what the goals and way of doing business was.  Although the company was structured, we had it on paper, it was not the same as a one to one conversation.  Had all the manager´s used MT guidelines, I believe we could have extended the small company culture and values to small groups within the company (which is what happened with some groups whose manager´s did follow best management practices).  MT has a cast on the 150 rule, and the suggestion is precisely to let subgroups develop as a means of retaining that closeness and feeling that what one does matters a lot one feels in a small company organisation.

I am not sure what you mean by:  "For example, I hesitate going to my boss and HR group to question my effectiveness and how I can contribute better because of stigma."  I am not sure why that is a stigma?  And what do you mean by stigma?  I just loved people who would come up asking for more work and what they could do better.  And that is so rare.  And I myself regret not having asked my boss that question earlier in my career.  And for sure I wish directors and managers would have asked HR that.  In my company HR was always willing to provide coaching (to help people grow from individual contributors or supervisors to manager roles as the company grew), but not all people were prepared to listen and implement the recommendations.

My opinion is that rather than a lot to be invented, we need more of what has already been invented implemented and implemented consistently.  

I have just recently received a joke on business terms definition: Business plan: "metaphysical entity, to which supernatural powers are attributed.   Nobody knows its true contents."  I had to laugh out loud.  I heard so often that we needed a business plan, while we actually had one!  We needed more, better, honest and consistent interactions and communication among people, and this is precisely what MT framework provides. 


mattpalmer's picture

Mike and Mark often say that Manager Tools guidance is for 90% of the people, 90% of the time.  I'd add that 90% of Manager Tools is for everyone, all the time.

I'm CTO of a small technology company, and I think very highly of Valve's practices.  I've been heavily involved in Github itself, and it's pretty good too.  But guess what?  I'm still implementing a large chunk of what MT recommends.  There are a few things that I'm fairly certain would never work for us, so that's the 10% that isn't for us.  The rest?  Embracing it *hard*.

On the other hand, 90% of the corporate workforce doesn't work for the sort of company I'm at.  Far, far more people work for "old world" companies than are in the hip new places.  it would be very dangerous for MT to give advice based on a small segment of the market, at the expense of the far larger segment.

Finally, I believe that many of the MT recommendations aren't based so much on particular corporate cultures as they are firmly grounded in human nature.  There are plenty of examples of small, "hip" companies that turned into just the sort of corporate "old world" places that MT guidance is built for.  As a result, I don't think that the recommendations that MT makes will go out of fashion until large corporations do (and I'm not worried about that happening in my lifetime).

acao162's picture

I'm glad you think all the recommendations in MT are "safe", I would argue that in many places they are actually 'dangerous'.  How many of us get push back or outright told "NO MORE O3s" by a boss?  You see that in the questions all the time.  (For the record, my boss started doing them after me & we love them!)

How many of us struggle just to implement the trinity because (in part) our directs are still terrified of the words "May I give you some feedback" - even when it is 99% positive?

How many of us struggle to implement things like meetings that start & end on time, conduct above average hiring processes, ask real behavioural questions and deliver bad news effectively?

All of these things can get you fired.  Yes, they can also get you promoted, if you work for people that give you a bit of room to try them.  MT has made me a better boss.  They've shown me where I am missing the mark & how to improve.  MT has also made me a better direct.  I attribute much of my success for the wisdom I've gained from MT podcasts and this community.

Until we get to a place where everyone knows, all the time, exactly what they are supposed to do, how they are to do it & have unlimited resources to accomplish the goal, I think there will be a need for MT.

timbarcz's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

 "everyone knows, all the time, exactly what they are supposed to do, how they are to do it & have unlimited resources to accomplish the goal, I think there will be a need for MT"



rbolton34's picture

 Some tools are safe to use, some tools can be dangerous in the wrong hands.  I put the tools I learn from MT and other sources into my bag of tricks and try to use the right tool for the situation .The  best way to get good at using a tool is practice.

I would like to thank M&M for letting me put there tools in my box and make them mine.

jocadl's picture

I think Manager Tools works for 90% of the people, 90% of the time because it focuses on effective *behaviors*. Behavior is what I can control; circumstance, I can't. More effective behaviors produce better outcomes. Most, if not all, organizations live and survive based on results (i.e. performance); consequently, Manager Tools guidance should be "safe". Sure, some things can get you fired in certain circumstances, but (a.) those are rare (90%/90%, remember) and (b.) at least you'll be fired for doing the right thing and/or doing things right. I'm taking that chance.

cynaus's picture
Training Badge

"All of these things can get you fired.  Yes, they can also get you promoted, if you work for people that give you a bit of room to try them.  "

Dude, if MT guidance can get you fired, you're working for the wrong people.... just sayin'.


dmb41carter36's picture

Agree 100% with Cynus.

I come from a somewhat unique perspective on this one. I have certifications in lean, six sigma and Project Management (PMP). If there every was a combination of tool box items, I have it. Of coarse, you cannot simply implement them blindly. I have seen it. It's awful. The people who crash and burn simply blame the tools and not themselves for wrong application (or sequence of implementation). I see MT/CT as the same. No blind 100% application.

I am still confused as to the original point of it being out dated. I guess it would be interesting to understand some more examples.



WayneHodder's picture

 I doubt that MT is out of date, it has been mentioned during the casts that MT is aimed at being a timeless approach to effective management.

MT does not seek to do what is "now" / "current" / or "fad" ways of effective management, the approach is based on what is known to be effective then the delivery shaped for timelessness.

To wonder if MT is out of date is to wonder if people are out of date; we all need to be managed, managed effectively.

Kevin1's picture


If communicating better and building stronger relationships goes out of date, then Heaven help us.

PedroPalhoto's picture

Hi Fematim,

In an industrial capitalist social-economic paradigm, MT fits like a glove, IMO. Most of MT principles such as communication and building relationships can easily carry over to emerging social-economic paradigms, that come out of the technical digital revolution.

Even prior to the digital revolution, a not so known kind of approach was used (and is still used), called corporate cooperativism, in the Basque region of Spain. There is a 1980 British documentary of the Mondragon Experiment on YouTube, in which you can see a very different management style being applied to great success after 25 years of starting it (at the time of the documentary release). Workers own the company(ies) they work for. I personally don't see this model as something to copy verbatim in current large organizations, just something to consider. The Mondragon Corporation group of cooperatives at the end of 2012 employed over 80K people.

I'll add a zoom-out perspective to what you might be sensing. The technical industrial revolution brought the Gutenberg press (mass communication) as well as productivity enhancement through the steam engine. The predominant agricultural social-economy paradigm gradually gave way into the industrial social-economic paradigm in several flavors. The technical digital revolution brought the internet (instant high bandwidth p2p communication) as well as productivity enhancement through the ability to automate information. I (and a growing number of many others) can no longer ignore the fact that a new paradigm is coming into being (much faster than the previous transition); it is an exciting time to be alive. History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

What you might be sensing is analogous to growing pains, but from a perspective of the human civilization, in which both rule sets don't work quite well together. Humanity's adolescence transition, if you will. Currently, REconomy's Shane Hughes' TEDx presentation, The Unstoppable Rise of the Collaborative Economy, does give a very clear perspective on where we are at, IMO.

I'm not sure if a multi-paradigmatic approach to MT will come out of the hosts anytime soon. Take into account that Mark and Mike have been conditioned their whole lives in the winning industrial capitalist organization (USA), and it might seem alien to consider any different paradigm then the winning (it-has-always-been-done-this-way) one. I can't blame them, and I must point out that I was conditioned in the US education system for four years when I was a kid (pledged allegiance to the flag and all) and I could only think in a industrial-capitalist mindset until my late 20s, and had ignorant knee jerk reactions to anything different. I couldn't zoom out and see what a paradigmatic time window was. If four years as a kid had that effect on constraining my thinking, I can't imagine what 50+ years can do. My hope is that Mark's desire for "timeless" casts speaks louder than anything else.

In any case, the adoption of new tools/paradigms follows the bell curve distribution pattern, there are innovators, first followers, the majority and laggards. Global awareness/understanding won't happen overnight, as each individual has a different "boiling point". That said, I don't consider MT to be old, just gradually falling out of paradigm (which fortunately can easily be adjusted, IMO).

LindaS82's picture

I work in company of 9 full-time people and have found MT works almost all of the time.  There are a couple casts about managing large groups of people and working across divisions that don't apply, but other than that, all the advice about O3's, FB, etc. works great.

LindaS82's picture

I work in company of 9 full-time people and have found MT works almost all of the time.  There are a couple casts about managing large groups of people and working across divisions that don't apply, but other than that, all the advice about O3's, FB, etc. works great. 

I will caution MT takes time and discipline - if you are going to listen to a few podcasts and give it a go for 6 months, that's not going to cut it. I found it took me a year to become comfortable with O3's and see full results, a second year to become comfortable and see full results of FB, and so on.  I would not be surprised if 50% of managers "gave up" and attributed their failure to something wrong with the methodology instead of their diligence and consistency.  It certainly isn't easy and is exhausting some weeks...(really??  is that guy going to say that again, I have to give feedback AGAIN...)

Another piece I think it spot on is MT comes down to people and relationships ultimately.  I have found that to be very true and again, there is no way to rush relationships.  it takes time to get to know people, coach them, develop them, etc.