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Problems: managing, fixing, and solving

In every era, each culture defines itself in terms of the heroes it admires. That, in turn, determines the mindset and aspirations of the generation whose values are formed during that time. For past generations explorers, military men, inventors, financiers, and statesmen have filled the role of hero. I believe that our time is the age of the manager. The MBA degree, a credential that qualifies one to administer by analysing and manipulating financial aggregates, has become the most prized ticket to advancement in the United States. The values managers regard most highly: competence, professionalism, punctuality, and communication skills have been enshrined as the path to success and adopted by millions.

The cult of management, for that is what it is, pervades the culture which is its host. In time, it will be seen to be as naive as the ephemeral enthusiasms that preceded and will, undoubtedly, supplant it in due course. But now, at the height of its hold, it's important to distinguish managing a problem from fixing it, for these are very different acts: one is a process, the other an event. Solving a problem often requires a bit of both.

By John Walker