Unless staff people have proved themselves in operations, they will lack credibility among operating people and will be dismissed as “theoreticians.”
Rules for staff people are just as important as rules for staff work. Don’t ever put anyone into a staff job unless he or she has successfully held a number of operating jobs, preferably in more than one functional area. For if staff people lack operating experience, they will be arrogant about operations, which always look so simple to the “planner.” But today, in government even more than in business, we put young people fresh out of business or law school into fairly senior staff jobs as analysts or planners or staff counsel. Their arrogance and their rejection by the operating organization practically guarantee that they will be totally unproductive.
With rare exceptions, staff work should not be a person’s “career” but only be a part of his or her career. After five to seven years on a staff job, people ought to go back into operating work and not return to a staff assignment for five years or so. Otherwise, they will soon become behind-the-scene wire pullers, “gray eminences,” “kingmakers,” “brilliant mischief-makers.”
ACTION POINT: Rotate staff people in and out of operating work.
The Frontiers of Management
* Source: The Daily Drucker by Peter F. Drucker