"Managing Things"

I’ve noticed an unusual fellow creeping into my speech recently: the phrase “managing things.”  I usually accompany the utterance of this phrase with a sort of confused/annoyed face and a waving of hands.  Here’s an example:

“What does (name)’s job entail?”
“Oh, I don’t know.  Marketing?  Talking to clients?  … managing things?”

I use this generally when I talk about vague things I don’t know about and don’t care about.

What does it mean?  I don’t know.  There’s a large overlap with the way I think about “business.”  It’s generally stuff that anyone can pick up relatively quickly*, where success or failure depends on how conscientious and organized you are.  I did this for a year as an executive board member of Scotch’n’Soda Theatre at CMU, and in numerous smaller capacities since.  I’ve never thought of myself as someone who’s good at a particular thing, and even picking a preference is risky (as you lose the chance to do all the things you didn’t pick), so I did some “managing things.”

*I tend to think anyone can do anything.  I guess what I’m saying here is that there’s nothing conceptually difficult about business, and there’s nothing mind-blowingly Hard about it.  It’s not advanced mathematics or pro basketball or juggling 7 balls.

Anyway, a couple thoughts about this phrase:

- it’s a way for me to sort of lump together a lot of things I don’t understand.  Like “supply chain management”, “operations research”, “office management”, “purchasing direction”, etc.  I’m sure a lot of people have a similar phrase when they talk about “computer things.”

- I don’t want to do any more of it.  I don’t actually find it fun.  It usually doesn’t involve much creativity, and therefore I will probably not find any joy in it.

- that said, I value it.  I respect people who are good at Managing Things, because it is a difficult thing that I am not great at.  And I am trying to value it more, because the alternative is the nerd’s arrogance, the “well that powerful businessman probably got a 2.2 in high school and went to No Name University and couldn’t find an integral if his life depended on it, but look at me, I’m clever!”  People hate on “managers”, but as with everything, the problem isn’t managers, it’s bad managers.

So here’s to you, Businessmen who Manage Things.  Is your salary a little overblown?  Yeah, maybe.  But so’s mine.  If you do it well, keep on Managing.

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