This week I attended the MIX Mash-Up, a unique event bringing together business leaders to discuss the need to re-invent management. Throughout presentations and discussions at the event a few things became clear. There is a silent crisis in many organizations. Executives know that do not have the right form of management but they are unsure of what to do. I believe that is because management is in a transition based on the forces of consumerism that is currently reshaping markets and technology.
Technology is changing the nature of work and the terms of management. By creating a work environment that is:
- Connected in terms of bringing people together where ever and when ever without restrictions based on position in the organization.
- Information intensive focusing on data and decisions as the key resources for creating value, directing processes and producing outcomes.
- Open in the sense that barriers to resources, expertise and productive capacity are falling in the world of globalized supply chain, trade and services.
- Innovation intensive as growth becomes harder to achieve, sustain and extend in a more competitive, complicated, and constrained market. Where there is slow or challenging growth, there is a greater need for innovation.
The consumerization of management reflects a range of forces redefining the nature of work and the workplace. Technology shifts the balance of power in the marketplace giving consumers more choice, control and confidence. Technology reshapes markets and the terms of competition. Just ask the music, travel, publishing, advertising, automobile, consumer products and others industries about the changing nature of consumerism.
The workplace was based on the idea that the company was the consumer and the employees the providers. Our role as individuals was to become wage slaves selling our time and attention to companies in exchange for compensation, resources and a place in the organizational hierarchy. In this model the company held all of the cards because they held the cash and control of the opportunities. As technology opens things up, that shift is changing the distribution of power, particularly for the judgment workers who have the greatest impact. These professionals demand a workplace that is:
- Providing opportunities to work on significant issues that matter to themselves, the company and society. Good people want to work on things that matter. The move by many organizations toward more socially conscious missions and strategies is as much a strategy for engagement as it is a desire for socially responsible.
- Creating greater participation in the workplace and reducing the pejorative relationships within the organization. People want a say in their work, the people they work with and the way they do their work. You see this in popular business press like the Robert Sutton ‘s book “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t.” As one executive told me, life is too short to work with jerks.
- Making work more accountable with less administration. People will accept greater responsibility for their results provided that responsibility cuts both ways. Just like Spiderman, with ‘great power comes great responsibility’ is true among the workforce provided that management provides equal rewards for success and reductions for failure. An organization where it is better to be 5 and 0 than 24 and is one that is all downside and no up.
- Greater transparency and less talk so the organization has the knowledge it needs to act rather than take blind jumps based on gossip and superstition. Transparency levels the playing field, the performance measures and the potential for improvement.
Traditional management with its focus on command, control and divisionalization is not well suited for this environment. This raises questions concerning the types of management that are well suited to this environment.
The simple answer is to say that No Management is Required as illustrated by examples at W.L. Gore, Morningstar or Valve Corp. But look at those cases and while you may not see anyone with the title manager, you see everyone performing the work of management. The consumers become managers of themselves, in collaboration with each other and in relationship to the challenges, commitments and capabilities they bring to the organization.
The consumerization of management calls for re-imaging and redistributing the work of management throughout an organization. Just as power, control and choice have shifted to the consumer, so too has the work, responsibility and commitments of management. Shifted not to another class of managers, but shifted to everyone as we recognize that we both the producers and consumers of the outcome of effective management which is human achievement.
Subsequent posts will discuss what the consumerization of management might mean to management tasks and activities, but for now I would welcome your ideas, thoughts and reactions to get the discussion going on this important topic that touches each of us.