Do you need all those levels of management? Do you really need that extra manager?

If you read cartoons like Dilbert, one common theme you’ll come across is that of the poor downtrodden worker who knows more about his job than his boss. In Dilbert’s case, he’s a hardworking and brilliant engineer. His ‘pointy-haired boss’ is pretty clueless about Dilbert’s work and, well pretty much everything really. Above the pointy-haired boss are a number of vice presidents and executives who are better paid than the pointy-haired boss but seem equally clueless.

I wonder how many medium and large businesses have structures like this. Well, one of the things that being an external auditor for many years taught me is that the answer is probably “too many”. Too many firms have a level of management in between the people at the top who get to make the really big, really important decisions and the people who actually do the work or run the departments.

Some time ago, I did some strategy consulting for the new owners of a hotel. The new owners had exciting plans for this hotel, and they had good staff already in place. The hotel was run pretty efficiently, the chef was talented and knew how to run a good restaurant, the laundry got done on time, the fitness club manageress had good ideas for getting more people in, the front desk staff were smart and helpful. The first thing the new owners had done was to appoint a hotel general manager to oversee the department heads. A very well-paid hotel general manager, whose previous job had been as area manager for a motel chain.

This general manager didn’t know much about running a fine restaurant or a fitness club, so there wasn’t much he could tell the chef or the fitness club manageress that they didn’t already know. In fact, when he did try this, his decisions (like cheap Sunday carvery for £5.99 in the posh restaurant) didn’t go down well with the people who knew better. One thing he did know about was getting the laundry done, and so that pretty much became his job – supervising the laundry manager. But he was paid an awful lot to do this, especially when you consider that there already was a laundry manager who was managing just fine on her own thank you very much.

This sort of situation often arises because the important people at the top don’t know just how clever their junior managers are. It’s very tempting to try hiring someone into a senior manager role because they impress at the interview. But likely as not, if you give them the opportunity, your existing people could take on extra responsibilities and do a much better job.

So, critically assess your own management structure. Does it have too many levels? We can help you with this kind of organisation structure review. Call us on 01822 835802 or email

By Mark Poles

Chartered Accountant, Google Qualified Advertising Professional, Google Analytics Qualified Individual, creator of "You're Hired!".