David Maister’s 1993 book “Managing The Professional Service Firm” is still the gold standard by which all other management books aimed at the legal, accounting, PR, marketing and consulting sectors should be judged.
A round up of material he’d been writing since the early 1980s, re-reading it again reminded me how much truth is still contained within its pages. There is very little that has dated.
Every chapter still contains golden nuggets of wisdom – not just for those in senior management positions in PR firms, but for those who are starting out on their careers.
For example, if you think the “motivation crisis” among the younger generation in PR is a new phenomenon, think again:
“PR is just not any fun any more. Today’s clients are demanding, cynical about the value they receive, and treat you less as a professional and more like an ordinary vendor. The pace, intensity and workload are greater than ever, and the firm atmosphere is competitive rather than supportive, and certainly less collegial. With all this concern about profitability, it seems like we’re being asked to work even harder for less money.”
And that was in 1985!
However, if the issue hasn’t gone away, then the solution offered 25 years ago is broadly similar. In other words, the problem isn’t one of too much work, but too much meaningless work. The role of management is to explain why work is important rather than just telling people what needs to be done. In addition, it is a function of the knowledge and skills that the firm has to offer that will give it the best chance of long term success. As Maister says, knowledge and skills are assets that left untended will depreciate in value. And quickly. And perhaps even more so in this day and age.
The PR sector as a whole clearly needs to invest in developing new knowledge and skills.
The future is bleak for those who continue milking yesterday’s assets.