Five Thoughts on “Makers” and “Managers”

As we are considering what a new facility will look like at LifeWay, some of our leaders recently toured offices throughout Nashville to gain perspective and insight on structuring work environments. The good folks at Red Pepper (a marketing and advertising agency) were very gracious with their time and gave a few of us a tour of their facility. The conversations flowed back and forth between facility, culture, leadership, and execution.

During the time, we talked about the difference between makers and managers, a phrase I picked up from them, and how they often work differently. The language is sticky because you immediately know the difference. Makers primarily focus on creating while managers primarily focus on managing people, processes, and systems to ensure the work gets done.

Here are five thoughts on makers and managers…

1. Both managers and makers are essential.

Without makers, an organization has nothing to offer those she seeks to serve. Without managers, without great organizers, an organization moves in a plethora of disconnected directions.

2. While both are important, managers exist for makers, not the other way around.

If there were only managers, there would be nothing of value to manage. Managers would create systems and processes that are worthless because they are not populated with what is made (services to people, resources, etc.)

3. Most organizations are over-managed.

While managers are absolutely essential, most organizations are over-managed. Too many processes, systems, and policies get in the way of actual work getting done. Just as weed killer can unintentionally kill flowers, over-management can harm health. Jack Welch, in his book Winning, advocates for managers to oversee 40% more people than most traditional models advocate. He pushes for flat, less bureaucracy, and thus less management. Which means, of course, more makers.

4. No one loves management as much as managers.

Management is often a self-perpetuating system. In the book The 80/20 Principle, Richard Koch writes that managers are usually the ones who continually advocate for the value of management. Wise leaders ensure “making functions” are well resourced and “manager functions” are not over-resourced.

5. Great managers are incredibly valuable.

Great managers are well worth the investment. They empower people, reproduce leaders, and ensure work gets done and deadlines are met. Great managers are typically the ones who create more capacity for makers, not the ones always longing for more management.