Hugh le Despenser’s Ten Management Tips

I’ve picked on Queen Isabella too much lately, haven’t I? So let’s have some equal time for her archenemy, Hugh le Despenser the younger.

Reading Alianore’s post about Hugh’s correspondence made me wonder, what would Hugh be doing today? Well, in between stints at minimum-security prisons for white-collar criminals, he’d probably be a CEO in the great tradition of Kenneth Lay or doing a bit of consulting work, I think, because he clearly had a gift for corporate management that was, alas, wasted on his peers in medieval England. Just look at how nicely quotes from his letters (courtesy of Alianore’s post) fit in with modern-day management technique tips:

Management Technique Tip # 1: Invest in a State-of-the-Art Communications System

We order you not to spare expense in sending us frequently information which concerns us.

Management Technique Tip # 2: Encourage Networking and Teamwork

We order you to put good spies on the borders of Breghenok.

Management Technique Tip # 3: Embrace Change

The times change from one day to another. Envy is growing, and especially among the magnates against us, because the king treats us better than any other; wherefore it is necessary for us, while times are good, that our affairs go well.

Management Technique Tip # 4: Give Your Employees the Resources They Need

And if you think it necessary that we send men-at-arms for the garrisons of our castles, if you will inform us speedily, we will send some of the king’s men and our own, as many as shall be necessary.

Management Technique Tip # 5: Impose Clear Expectations upon Staff

You are to act so that we are without damage and you without blame.

Management Technique Tip # 6: Give Employees Feedback

We reprove you sharply for not sending more frequent reports of news.

Management Technique Tip # 7: Document Employee Deficiencies for Personnel Files

We have kept a copy of our letter word for word, to bring it up against you at another time if there is any default.

Management Technique Tip # 8: Don’t Get Bogged Down in Needless Paperwork

We have already so often sent letters on this subject in the past that we are quite tired of it, and we inform you that we will send no further instructions about it until we have need to write in answer to your letters, and therefore the instructions we have given before this must suffice.

Management Technique Tip # 9: Think Outside of the Box

It seems to us that it would be a very good thing if you would in the most subtle manner possible obtain from each commote of our lordship certain hostages.

Management Technique Tip # 10: Have a Well-Defined and Concise Mission Statement

That we may be rich and may attain our ends.

7 thoughts on “Hugh le Despenser’s Ten Management Tips”

  1. LOL, Hugh the management consultant. 😉 He really was a man of many talents! I bet they didn’t go to waste even when he was in prison…;) All the techniques are great, but I especially like 7 and 10!

  2. Another ROFLOL post. *adds Susan’s blog to the list of blogs not to read while eating*

    #5 is one of my favourites, I had a boss like that; and #7.

  3. #10 is a model of clarity – an example to all the committees who write meaningless mission statements!

    Is Hugh’s fate a brilliant demonstration of the difference between the medieval world and the modern one? Punishment for embezzlers in high office now: open prison and probably a fat book deal. Punishment for same then: hanging, drawing and quartering.

  4. Oh, there’s one guy here I totally want to see quartered and drawn. Instead, a book deal sounds probable. 🙁

  5. Susan Higginbotham

    Oh, certainly, he was a man of diverse abilities! I think he could have probably done both–some organized crime and some dummy corporations to conduct his criminal enterprises. He probably would have kept a big law firm very happy, both in the criminal and the civil sides.

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