Deadly Sins: How the 1-Minute Management Mentality Crippled Marketing

Neil Mahoney

By Neil Mahoney

The “1-Minute Manager” is a fine book with a lot of valuable suggestions for improving business operations—BUT it encourages thinking and attitudes that lead too many of today’s CEOs to believe that downsizing their organizations is a magic bullet for permanent revenue increases and profitability—and that cutting price is the only way to sell things. As a consequence, too many businesses have the fuel mixture on their engines set way too lean.

What this corporate streamlining and downsizing has produced are shortcuts in strategy and planning—especially in sales and marketing—as well as acute shortages of skilled advertising and marketing professionals. Much of true marketing is now a lost art where few of the real pros remain, and this streamlining has come at the expense of long-term corporate revenues and profits. Even in this era of short-term thinking, planning, and managing, no CEO would consider promoting someone who wasn’t top-notch in his or her profession to an accounting or engineering management position. This isn’t necessarily true with a marketing management position, however.

Marketing requires deep, critical thought; analysis; and research to absorb the knowledge and gain the insights that inspire programs that motivate prospects to buy and salespeople —direct and indirect—to effectively sell the company’s products and services. Before that can take place, a thorough understanding of the wants and needs of your key prospects is necessary—as is frequent input from salespeople, who are too often ignored because they operate in a different world: the real world where products must pass the ultimate test of customer satisfaction. It’s also vital that this input be gathered by skilled marketing pros who know how to use this input to the company’s advantage.

Why So Few Marketing Professionals?

Shortcuts to the marketing process began back in the late ’80s when it became voguish to decree that management was a specialty unto itself—and an effective manager is an effective manager is an effective manager.

About the same time, corporate management fell into the trap of managing from quarter to quarter instead of decade to decade. This ultimately denuded the company and the profession of well-trained, skilled marketers. That, and the lost emphasis on in-depth planning—plus the deep thought it takes to develop sound, effective strategies—has crippled the function and turned much of the craft into a lost art.

Short-term profits have become everything. Whatever it takes to look good during the second half is OK. To paraphrase the famous Nike slogan: “If it makes us look good, do it.”

Third, the computer morphed from a tool that was great for running payrolls to a tool that was also great for design and development to a tool that was great for everything. Many of today’s marketers no longer take the time to learn and analyze situations. They think the computer can do the thinking for them.

Why Strategy, Planning, and Professional Marketers Bit the Dust

Today’s three gods…

  1. Management is a specialty unto itself
  2. Short-term management and short-term planning
  3. The computer makes multi-tasking easy and makes me more efficient

…have proven to be false gods for three big reasons: Starting with the first fallacy and working forward:

Management is a specialty that can cut across all lines: This already has been said, but it’s worth saying again. Management skills alone are not enough. Truly effective managers also must possess skills and professional know-how in the functions being managed. Effective managers must be good critics who know good work from bad—and know how to help the teammate fix it. They also must be good teachers and good listeners; fair, impartial judges; and capable defenders of their team with the courage to defend it when it’s right.

To do that, they must be respected and trusted by senior management for skills and effectiveness. To wit: When I was an ad manager, the division president came into my office waving a magazine menacingly and challenged me to defend why our ad was in the book. I politely told him, “Because you read it, Tony.” He looked puzzled by the remark, so I added, “We want to our product to be seen by top managers in all the manufacturing plants.”

He left my office smiling.

Here are a few more essentials to add to the list. Effective managers also must be: visionary thinkers and planners, good judges of what’s best for the company, and good salespeople for the department. To be an effective teacher, critic, and defender of the department and its work, the manager has to have mastered his or her craft. There’s no substitute for this

Short-term management, short-term planning: “Management by Objective” (MBO) is a great concept that’s been used for decades, but when it’s mixed with short-term objectives, it often becomes Mis-Management by Objective. Here’s an example:

In magazine publishing, circulation is the life-blood of the magazine. However, building good circulation is labor intensive. A publisher whose magazine competed with one of mine was given the objective to “increase employee productivity.” Calculating that was easy: Divide revenue by the number of employees. The publisher outsourced circulation. His numbers looked great that year, and he got his bonus. During subsequent years, the quality of his circulation deteriorated. He lost ad pages and the book ultimately folded.

Multi-tasking increases efficiency: A recent study on multi-tasking shows:

  1.  Tasks are almost always performed less efficiently and less effectively
  2.  Inveterate multi-taskers have diminished ability to focus on any one task—even when working on just one task
  3.  Since multi-taskers aren’t able to focus as well, they don’t think situations through as well

As was mentioned earlier, marketing requires a thorough accumulation of information, deep thought, and critical analysis. You won’t get that from a multi-tasker.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “The 11 Most Deadly Sins in Sales & Marketing” in December.

Neil Mahoney is the founder of Mahoney/Marketing and has 30 years of experience at all levels of sales and marketing, including stints at General Electric, ITI Inc., Bausch & Lomb, and ABC Broadcasting. Visit for more information.