10 of My Favorite Dumb Ass Management Mistakes

Rear view of a brown horse. Note 1 from Art: this one is rated something or another for strong language and emotional intensity.

Note 2: In the spirit of my post, At Least 20 Things to Stop Doing as a Leader,” which has grown well north of 50 thanks to a deluge of reader comments, I’m back with a list of some insanely stupid and all-too-common management mistakes. These focus more on the decisions, actions or inactions that contribute to creating even bigger problems. While I’ve remained on the positive side of the law here (felons, you’ve had your day!), some of these mistakes are truly criminal. Please feel free to chime in with your additions.

1. Locking the corporate strategy in a drawer. Hey, I’m all for security, but this wasn’t just protecting important documents. This executive didn’t bother to share the strategy with employees either. It was a secret.

2. Not rolling out the sales compensation plan until late March. The sales team was on a calendar year. Hmmm, what did everyone do for Q1?

3. This one is epidemic…sucking the value out of an acquired company by folding, spindling, mutilating, disrespecting, vanquishing and otherwise conquering and plundering the target. We’ve got a mountain of evidence of this, and still, dumb [email protected]@ executives focus on the deal (the easy part) and forget the real work of properly and positively managing the new relative. Welcome to the family! Now bend over and cough.

4. Looking for cause in the effect. This is a daily occurrence in many businesses, where managers run around trying to explain the drivers behind company, competitor and market outcomes. “Hey, our competitor keeps putting up great numbers. They’ve gone to a formal dress code at the office. It must be the clothes.” OK, that’s a little far-fetched, but I double-dog dare you to find a few instances of misguided cause and effect in your workplace today.

5. Losing sight of the core issues in the heat of argument. The decision making process is complex. Add in a group of high powered and big ego managers and you’re certain to be pressured into a dumb a** decision. My favorite evil tactic, “Take of your (insert function) hat and put on your business hat.” You might as well have a lobotomy prior to making that decision, because that’s what your evil counterpart is essentially asking you to do.

6. Letting marketing define its own key performance indicators. Hey, I’m a lifetime marketer, and I still rankle at this one.  If the marketing activities don’t specifically connect to the key levers that move the business forward, they are interesting to some but useless to many.

7. Sliding down the slippery slope of consensus decision-making. Everybody doesn’t get a vote unless we’re talking about ordering pizza. We’ve all seen the cartoon that indicates in a series of panels what various functions wanted in a new product development effort. The Rube Goldberg outcome looks nothing like what the customer wanted. Start looking for the moves away from smart and good in the consensus-based decisions on your teams. It should frighten you.

8. “It’s sunk cost. We can’t worry about what we’ve spent, we need to keep moving forward.” Ha! This rationale has derailed careers and destabilized nations. For the love of all this is good in humanity, quit burning money when all the signs say “Stop!”

9. Daily occurrence in this economy: failing to acquire the right talent because of cost controls. Yeah, let’s fix this one once we’re making money! (For 20 bonus points, identify the insane and inane thought processes that went into that last statement.)

10. Annual occurrence: putting a group of managers in a room one time per year and expecting that out of the collective group grope, market winning strategies will emerge. “Hey, great meeting. See you next year.” We’ll maybe…unless our competitors leave us for global road kill.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The common denominator in all ten of those very real mistakes is that they are controllable. We can decide to not make these mistakes. The sales comp plan can hit the street with the new year. We don’t have to throw good money after bad, and we don’t have to engage in practices like the annual strategy planning retreat (it’s a process!) that are just stupid. If you can’t go out and get the talent that you need now with what’s walking around on the street, you’re either not trying hard enough or you need to find some other people to work for.

Instead of thinking deep thoughts about making good decisions as part of your New Year’s Resolutions, why not resolve to simply not make the same bad old decisions over and over again. Now that would be progress.

By | 2016-10-22T17:11:45+00:00 December 7th, 2010|Career, Decision-Making, Leadership, Marketing, Strategy|9 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Eric Rodriguez December 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    I was waiting for the “Dumb a$$ Leadership post,” and I’m glad it didn’t disappoint well done. 🙂

    • Art Petty December 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Eric, now I remember. You were the instigator here! I’ve thought of another 10 since posting. Those will serve as fodder for part 2. -Art

  2. Dave Dobson December 7, 2010 at 4:10 pm - Reply


    How about expecting to miraculously produce results without any real investment in time and people? We’ve all had the pep talk that goes something like “I know you can do it. You’re creative. Figure out a way to get it done.”

    If it’s worth doing, then managers need to show their support by putting their money where their mouth is instead of just expecting that a project will be successful by pulling spare minutes from peoples’ schedules.

    • Art Petty December 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Dave, you’ve opened up a whole new category with remarkable potential for Dumb A** Management Mistakes! And I’m momentarily feeling a twinge like I might have authored a comment like that to you at one point. Uh oh! : )

      Thanks for commenting! -Art

  3. davidburkus December 7, 2010 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    2 is by far my favorite. Probably because I cut my teeth in sales.

    • Art Petty December 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm - Reply

      Yes, I have a personal attachment to that one as well! (I fixed it!) Thanks, David! -Art

  4. Mike O'Brien December 7, 2010 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Art –

    Too many times I’ve heard the top down statement similar to this one: ” We’re going to ship the product by the date (far / to / early), because that is when (insert big important customer) needs it.”

    Shorting yourself on adequate testing, be it internal or beta, always comes back to haunt you AND the big important customer later on. How many times have you had a chance to swoop in and mop up after a competitor’s seemingly advanced solution falls on its face. Sadly, this happens far too often as we reach for appeasing the almighty “customer want dates” that are handed to us in ultimatum fashion.

    Mike O

  5. Patricia Comer December 7, 2010 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Love the picture! It is perfect! I could definitely relate to #1. Although I wasn’t working for a corporation, I was working for the second largest employer after the military in the Land of Enchantment. It took me over two years to figure out what heck the “strategy” was, and then it became clear to me that they were gutting my program, um, I mean “restructuring” it – ha! Oh, and it gets better…it was over a turf battle…sneaky bastards – ha!

  6. […] Dumb-Ass Mistakes: Not limited, you will be happy to know, to marketing, here are ten things not to do by Art Petty from his Management Excellence […]

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