Can “Old School” Management Techniques Work Nowadays?

Adrian S. Potter
4 min readMar 13, 2024

Spoiler — outdated thinking might not solve modern problems.

Photo by Charles Büchler on Unsplash

Imagine a supervisor who insists on weekly progress reports in a rigid format, refusing to consider alternative methods of tracking progress because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

Consider a team meeting where a leader spends most of the time talking, rarely allowing team members to voice their opinions or contribute ideas.

Think of a workplace where employees are terrified to take risks or suggest improvements because they fear backlash from upper management.

I would define these scenarios as prime examples of old-school management techniques.

An “old school” management style typically refers to a traditional approach to leadership and organization that emphasizes hierarchical structures, strict rules, and a top-down decision-making process. This style often prioritizes authority and control over collaboration and empowerment. Here are some examples of this you may still commonly see in organizations:

1. Military Command: Think of an “old school” supervisor as a general leading troops into battle. They give orders, expect them to be followed without question, and rarely solicit input from lower-ranking soldiers. It’s a clear chain of command where the general’s word is final.

2. Teacher-Student Dynamic: In this scenario, the manager is like a strict teacher who lectures from the front of the class while the employees are expected to sit quietly and absorb information. There’s little room for discussion or deviation from the lesson plan.

3. Factory Assembly Line: Picture a micromanager overseeing a production line where each worker has a specific task to complete. Any deviation from their assigned role is discouraged, and there’s minimal flexibility for innovation or creativity.

4. Parent-Child Relationship: Sometimes an “old school” leader adopts a paternalistic approach, treating employees like children who need constant guidance and supervision. They might hover over every aspect of their work and expect unquestioning obedience.

5. Dictatorship: At its extreme, an “old school” management style resembles a dictatorship where the manager…

--

--

Adrian S. Potter

Antisocial Extrovert · Writer and Poet, Engineer, Consultant, Public Speaker · Writing about self-improvement, gratitude, and creativity · www.adrianspotter.com