Archives for management



It’s All in the Framing

Reader Steve Cebalt from Fort Wayne, Ind., sent in this picture, taken at a mega-supermarket near his home.  Here’s what he  had to say about it:

I was struck by the unapologetic, commanding, imperative, unexplanatory tone of that message. I liked it and thought it was very effective communication. Understand that this is a mega-supermarket, and that closing this exit imposes a major inconvenience on all shoppers and a hazard on elderly people who have to traverse to the opposite exit and then back to their car in blizzard conditions, so the closure of this exit door is a major issue for the store. Somehow I find the store’s imperative tone more satisfying than anything else they possibly could have said. But why does it intrigue me, and why do I find it more satisfying than the overwrought “customer-centric” tone of most similar communications I see? I have my theories, but I’d be interested in whether your readers have reactions. By the way, I discussed this with the store manager, who thought I was nuts. Not really. Actually, he said they gave that sign a lot of thought. He said the wording was very deliberate because they knew that closing that door was a major decision that affected customers significantly during the worst weather of the year…Safety? Mechanical failure? OSHA regulations? It could be a lot of things, right? 

Well, Freakonomics readers, what do you think of the language? And what’s your guess as to why the store opted to block off the door?



A Model of Government Efficiency (Not a Typo)

Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan use the example of New York City’s surprisingly efficient passport office to explore an interesting question: “Why do some government offices perform well and others poorly, even when they’re providing the same services and working with comparable resources?” Fisman and Sullivan think it’s all about the management:

There’s an emerging body of research that chalks up these productivity gaps to the all-too-human ways that different companies (and divisions within a single organization) are managed. The fact that management matters—a lot—shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has ever worked under a good manager and also a bad one: Good managers coach, listen, support, and make their employees feel like they’re making progress. Bad ones don’t—often in uniquely horrible ways. And if this is true at for-profit companies, why wouldn’t it be true for branches of the government?

At the Hudson Street New York Passport Office, the management is Michael Hoffman: Read More »



How Much Does a Good Boss Really Matter? A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “How Much Does a Good Boss Really Matter?”  (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.) 

It’s based on a recent working paper called “The Value of Bosses” (abstractPDF) by Edward LazearKathryn Shaw, and Christopher Stanton. In the podcast, you’ll hear Lazear describe the basic problem:

LAZEAR: Suppose you look at a firm and you see that the firm is highly productive. Well, it may be highly productive because it has productive workers, because it has productive technology, or because it has good supervisors that are enhancing the productivity of the workers, and it’s not so easy to tease out one effect from another.

So how can you measure the impact of the bosses? Data, people, data. And Shaw came up with a huge data set from a company that included roughly 23,000 employees and 2,000 bosses. Read More »



Calling All Bosses for a New Freakonomics Radio Segment

We are working on a short Freakonomics Radio piece about “the value of bosses,” derived from a new working paper of that name (abstract; PDF) by Edward Lazear, Kathryn Shaw, and Christopher Stanton. The paper finds a good boss is indeed considerably more valuable than a mediocre or bad boss, at least in terms of productivity.

What do you think? We’d like to include in the radio piece some real bosses (i.e., not just the anonymized kind that show up in economics papers) so if you’re a boss (in retail or service or I.T. or manufacturing or whatever), let us hear from you via radio@freakonomics.com. How much do you think bosses matter? What makes a good boss good (and a bad one bad)? Who’s the best (or worse) boss you ever had? And, most important, how are good bosses made?



How Will California’s Parks Do Under Private Management?

California embarked this week on a grand experiment in common property resource management when, in order to help close a gaping budget hole, it turns over dozens of state parks to private firms and community coalitions.

Seventy of the state’s 278 parks were set to close July 1. But a last-minute change to the state budget will keep all but five open, though many will not be managed by the state. At least six parks will remain open under corporate contracts with firms like American Land and Leisure, which operates campgrounds in 12 states. Dozens more have been rescued, at least temporarily, by local municipalities, private donors, and non-profit organizations.

Economists have long-held that the tragedy of the commons — any individual has too little incentive to protect from exploitation a non-excludable resource he holds in common with potentially countless others — could only be overcome by state intervention or private ownership. Read More »



How Do Recessions Affect the C-Suite?

According to research by Yale labor economist Lisa Kahn, beginning your career during a recession can be a real drag, for a real long time. Finding that first job is obviously harder, and even when you do, the pay is usually much less. Kahn found (full paper here) that people who get their first job during a recession have a starting salary that’s on average 25 percent lower than it would be during a boom. Seventeen years later, those people are typically earning 10 percent less than they would had they started during a better economy.

But what about CEOs who start their business career during a recession? Is it any different for them?

According to a new study (full version here) from Antoinette Schoar (“The Church of Scionology” podcast contributor) and Luo Zuo, recessions have a peculiar effect on the career trajectory and management style of CEOs. Read More »