How to gain knowledge of what a manager really does? Part 1

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A few weeks ago I wrote about the limitations we face in finding out what a manager really does. These limitations arise for a simple reason: managerial activities tend to be cognitive, that is, a manager performs them in his or her head, and to a lesser extent, physical activities such as moving arms and legs.

In conversations with managers, scientists and entrepreneurs, I often compare the work of a manager and that of a car driver. The question can be asked here: who is easier to replace with a robot, or more generally with artificial intelligence? You would guess that the driver is easier to replace because… it is easier to register what he is really doing. He moves the steering wheel, presses the pedals, changes gears. And the manager, who sits with the team, what does he really do? For example, we can say: he talks to employees.

However, talking to people is a rather general activity, used in various situations, including those completely different from the manager’s work. We will ask further: in that case, what does this conversation involve? What does it carry with it? By talking, does the manager motivate employees, announce a decision to them, plan their work for the coming week? To answer in detail, however, we need to understand what he is saying and how the employees are behaving. Even for a human being this is not easy, an inexperienced observer will not recognize whether the conversation is about motivating or planning, let alone if a machine were to do it.

So we have a problem recognizing a manager’s activities, we find it difficult to distinguish specific activities (planning) from general activities (talking). As incredible as it may seem to you, this is why no one knows what a manager actually does. It’s much easier to find out what a car driver is doing by recording physical activities, extracting them from the total human movement and trying to imitate them with, for example, a mechanical robot.

Below is an example of how physical activities can be extracted using the pattern recognition method, which I have also used in the past to recognize cognitive activities recorded by online management tools on the platform.

To solve this problem, I published an article in 2021 describing how to record the work of a manager so that we can first imitate and then replace a human robot with a manager robot. In future posts, I will present excerpts from this article.