The 10:1 managerial ratio

10 to 1 Managerial Ratio (Questions to Decision)

It’s a pretty simple concept:

  • For every one order/directive you give, ask 10 questions before that.

I got it from this post by my man Art Petty, where he talks about being a hyper-rooster manager.

What’s a hyper-rooster? Glad you asked:

These over-caffeinated and self-anointed drivers of productivity falsely believe that constant pushing and oversight followed by more pushing are all essential. They subscribe to an old model of motivation—one that depended upon unwavering immersion in the act of “supervising” the work of others. The underlying belief is that people who are watched and/or, who are constantly goaded into action actually outperform those left to their own designs.

This is kind of the essential problem of most workplaces — bad managers and how they get that way — and it all comes from the base idea that management isn’t actually intuitive; namely, the things that got you elevated are things you should care much less about now that you’re a manager.

Hyper-rooster managers focused on tasks, deliverables, targets, projects, and the sanctity of hierarchy create a number of problems for organizations, namely:

When you add up all of the above, you have a culture of disengagement. People don’t really understand the work they’re doing, the priorities shift/change all the time, seat time and monitoring matter, etc. That means they’re working for a paycheck. That’s a transactional relationship. Those people don’t do quality work and, eventually, they leave.

Could this 10:1 ratio idea help, though?

It could. And here’s the simple reason: a lot of the aspects you’re removing in the above example, you’d be putting back in this example. To wit:

  • 10 questions from a manager: it feels like they actually value you and your opinion
  • It feels like a discussion/discourse instead of an order/edict
  • It allows an organic relationship to develop, which many managers are bad at promoting
  • It reduces the focus/necessity of hierarchy
  • It underscores the idea that good ideas/concepts can come from any level/rung of an organization
  • It allows for stop and think moments — through the questioning process — as opposed to rushing headlong into tasks
  • It underscores the value of questions at work, which is as much a dying art form as Latin or writing letters by hand
  • It removes the concept that managers are the only people with expertise or context enough to make a decision

OK, so … if you are a manager and happen to read this, try it in the next couple of weeks/months. When a decision process comes down the pike, well … instead of throwing an edict/task to an underling, engage in a 10-question process with them before you mutually come to a decision/answer/idea. It will empower the employee, take some stuff off your plate, and create a whole new context for how the employee ties back to the organization.

Go forth and prosper.


Ted Bauer