This is not America

This is not America. I am not an American. I am not anti Americans just their business/management culture. The business schools, the MBA courses, the case studies and the language, the influence of the US is overwhelming. The attitude and the behaviour, the way they do things, are held up as models to study and emulate. They are the biggest and best, so they tell us. Recently , to no ones great surprise,  a Harvard Business Review article confirmed that US management was the best.

When Americans write a management book the typical titles read 

How to win every day 
5 shore-fired tips to success 
Moving from good to great 

When the author is British the titles read 

What I wish I had known before I became a manager 
How to be a better communicator 
A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about the studying of leadership

I’m sorry chaps but your opinionated and abrasive way, your over confidence and 
your situational ethics don’t sit comfortably with our culture. Or they didn’t. More and more we are seeing the Americanisation of the way we do business and the way we manage our employees. Perhaps we have been fooled by the fact we speak the same language ( although that’s debatable) but when it comes to management we have in the past always been more European than American. 

The Americans love their sporting metaphors when talking business so let’s use football as an example of the difference between our cultures and why that might mean we shouldn’t copy their way of doing business. 

It’s American Football (gridiron) versus the football the rest of the world plays. 
The American  game reflects their society, the way they do business and their approach to management, our game does the same.

Let’s just agree to differ on which is the better game instead let’s agree you just can’t lift wholesale the strategies, the required skills and attributes, the management techniques, the ways of doing things even the approach to customers/ fans. Of course you can lift some ideas. Recently there has been a lot of interest in the use of analysts in data driven talent spotting something that originated in US sport and is being adapted by clubs in this country to inform their activity in the transfer market. The Americans have led the way in how you monetize sport, with sponsorship and t.v. rights. American football is ideally suited to television advertising with four quarters and the stop go play allowing for a lot of advertising time during a game. Not so football with it short halftime interval and continues play. The American audience /customer just wouldn’t accept a nil nil draw there must be a winner and high scoring is essential to maintain interest. 

American football is brutal, it’s about strength, speed, strategy and team work. It’s full on contact sport  where the players wear body armour. It couldn’t  be more different to the “ beautiful game” where skill is more important than size or aggression.( I am exaggerating the difference to make my point) I believe American ways of doing business and their approach to management has brutalised British management culture. 

I blame the Americans or those who champion their way of doing business for some of the worst aspects of today’s management. The macho  leadership style, the emphasis on completion rather than cooperation, the focus on cost/efficiency, the obsession with numbers (measurement and data ) the belief that the end justifies the means, the attitude that it’s about beating the system so anything is ok if you can get away with it, the treatment of employees ( zero contracts, not recognising TU’s, aggressive absence management polices, performance related pay, annual appraisals, a higher and firer mentality). 

How we do business and how we manage people is culturally specific, we can learn from the rest of the world but we are not Americans.  This is not America.
 
Blair Mcpherson former Director author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 

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