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Tag: 21st century managers

Gen Y managers and leaders or leading and managing in the age of Gen Y?

Gen Y may be effective workers but are they good leaders and managers?

The weakness of Gen Y managers has bothered me, and I remained bothered until I had made up my mind about the future of management.

The future of management

I think management is going to exist pretty much unchanged except for three features.

  • We will work globally with people all over the world
  • We will work through the internet and need internet-type IT skills
  • Management will no longer be hierarchical

Managers of tomorrow will be puppet masters who specialize in the

  • Design of systems
  • Management of communities
  • Identification of collective opportunities

Collective will be their thing.

Managers won’t come through the ranks

Managers won’t be promoted up the ranks simply because there will be fewer ranks. Specialists will be happy to stay in their own specialities because there will be no advantage to promotion.  Managers may have no technical skills but they will be adept at getting people to work together.  They will be no more important than any one else though.  They’ll ask for support rather than demand performance.

Managers will exist in just the same way as skilled coders exist and skilled writers exist.

Managers who don’t have people or technical skills may need to find some skills

Many of the people whose skills I found woeful wanted to be managers. They were very bad listeners though.

Such people may find themselves dislocated if they are poor with people and have no technical skills either. But presumably they can learn management skills if given opportunities early enough.

If management is a career route, then presumably we will take in people to do management work at a very young age ~ and encourage them to acquire management skills at school and in community groups.

Not everyone wants to be a manager though. I know plenty of young people who don’t.

The future of management in the age of Gen Y

Matter resolved for me ~ for you?  This is my take as of November 2009.

  • Gen Y have no particularly predisposition to manage and perhaps a slight disposition not to manage
  • Management in this day is more coordination – on a daily base, via intricate internet skills and by recognizing opportunity within a network
  • Gen Y will learn the skills of management quite young by taking on projects
  • We can improve Gen Y skills by giving them projects to design, lead and manage at a young age.

What’s your view?

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5 signs our education system has got better

Best Buy Store located in Shanghai, China

 

Image via Wikipedia

Do you believe that the education system is better or worse than when you were at school?

Micheal Porter recently published a strategic plan for the recovery of the US economy.  It applies equally to the UK economy.  A key requirement is that our education system must get very much more rigorous and competitive.

We all like to criticize the educational system and claim that it is not what it once was.  I think, in business subjects at least, our education system is BETTER than it was when we went through university.  This is what we can expect of graduates

  1. Strategy.  They will know who Micheal Porter is and rattle off his work on 5 competitive forces, define the supply-chain, and appreciate how international competitiveness rests on hyper-competitiveness at home.
  2. Management science. They will have done some management science and be able do some basic process modelling with diagrams and excel spreadsheets.
  3. Social media. They are likely to be able to set up, with relative ease, basic social media facilties like networks and blog and work effectively in companies like Best Buy who use internet-mediated collaboration extensively.
  4. Social constructionism.  They are used to giving their opinions and are well schooled to accept there are many points-of-view to a single issue.
  5. Positive organizational scholarship.  They are increasingly exposed to the idea that ideas emerge from the group or situation and are not dependent on an all-powerful, all-knowing “boss”.

Is this enough though?

While I believe that our education system has got better, is it enough?  There are three areas that worry me about what our students learn.

  1. General knowledge including knowledge of science.   Students, reasonably in my opinion, are most interested in material that seem relevant to what they want to do in life.  Adolescents and young adults, won’t settle until we recognise their unique identity.  Nonetheless, how can any student in an educational system in 2008 not know of the CERN accelerator, the Obama election and the credit crunch?   That is the modern day equivalent of switching off the radio as Armstrong landed on the moon, when Martin Luther King spoke and or Sam Miller sold Trademe for 200 million pounds (you didn’t know that one!)  We need to be able pick up events of the day and bring them into our courses and to do that, teachers need time to follow events and time to redesign their classes.
  2. Time spent on cutting edge ideas. In seeming contradiction of the first point, students have a limited number of hours in their day and our textbooks are often old.  It is bizzare to be teaching them procedures that are no longer used. Having said that, why don’t we have an interactive museum that teaches them the history of work and business?  Is it not reasonable that any examing authority, including every university, review its curriculum annually and account for what is taken out and put in?  I believe these curricula should be public and available for any one to inspect and comment on the internet.
  3. Quantitative skills.  When we were students we studied statistics but only a small percentage of students can actually use the skills they were taught.  Workers on the Toyota assembly line use means, standard deviations and t-tests as part of their daily work.  Herein lies the call for more rigour in our education system.   We must use the skills we teach and if we think it is beyond us, we need to convey deep respect for those who do.

So those are my three issues, none of which are so difficult to implement.  They require no capital and no retraining – just leadership.

My optimistic view of the future

As we move towards networked organizations such as we see at Boeing and Best Buy, our graduates will be mapping out complex supply networks, resolving performance problems at source using sophisticated analyses, and proposing solutions to diverse audiences all of whom are experts in their own right. Students do get this experience working on non-educational projects on the internet.  It is time for us to bring this activity into the classroom too.

I am generally optimistic.  My expectation is that within a year or so, graduates will be routinely presenting a portfolio of work on the internet.  Alex Deschamps-Sonsino, London based interaction designer is an example.  Daryl Tay, young Singaporean social media evangelist, is another.  Students might also show off wikis and multimedia project via links or pages.

I think the young people of today are up to it and it is they who might drive the development of more rigorous education!

So what is your view?  Do you believe that our education system is better than in your day, and what are the key issues that need to be addressed to “allow our workers to compete with workers anywhere in the world”?

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Work psychology: 2008 AD

Do you know what work psychologists do?

Thirty-one years ago, I decided to study psychology.  And for 28 years, I have practiced as a work psychologist.  Can you imagine my surprise when some readers said this blog was their first encounter with my esteemed trade?  So what do we do?

What do we do all day?

I love being a work psychologist and I think it is important for you to know I go to my ‘office’ every day with a spring in my step, looking forward to the people I will meet during the course of the day.   Most of our lives are spent ‘on the road’.  We usually work at our clients’ factories and offices, and we need strong arms to carry around briefcases laden with confidential papers.  When you see us, we are likely to be taking part in some HR exercise – recruitment, selection, or team-building, say.  When you don’t see us, we will be reconciling paperwork, doing computer work, or talking to senior managers about the direction of the company, and ways to organize, lead, up skill, confront challenges, and look after each other.

Why do clients hire us?

We deal with the pulse of the organization.  Ideally, we want everyone to enjoy their work as much as we do.  There is fascination in what we do, but little mystery.  Our understanding of how organizations work has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 100 years.  The last ten years have been particularly interesting as the limits of old ‘mechanical’ organizations have been reached and we’ve begun to embrace the fluidity and flexibility of the internet.

The psychologist’s role is to bring to the party up-to-date information about the way work practices are changing around the world, hands-on experience of changes in other companies, and deep commitment to supporting you as you think through changes in the immediate and foreseeable future.

What is special about what we do?

Just looking at us work is not sufficient to see the value we add.  You can see us talking to people – lots of people do that!  You see the briefcases – a prop?

The key to what psychologists do is deep training and ongoing exposure to work situations around the world.  When we talk with you, we are not asking whether we like you.  Nor, are we are asking about things we want.

Our interest is in accurately understanding your motivation and your circumstances, reflecting them against the changing world of business and work, and helping you work through the mix of emotions you feel as you cast your story in terms of today’s economic conditions – globalization, credit crunch, and new technologies.

This is a complicated process.  Even in the simplest business, we have on the one hand the things we want, and one the other, ‘what’s out there’.  And that gap in knowledge is not all we cope with.  When we really want something, we feel fear and trepidation.  Our job is to stay with you while you work through your anxiety and take the first step towards what will ultimately be success and very deep satisfaction.

Psychologists understand this process, see it is normal, and are there to help steer you through all three questions: you, your opportunities, your emotions.

When we work in most modern businesses, 5, 10, 15, 10 000, 100 000 of us are going through the same process.  When I decide, for example, to pursue my story in certain ways, my actions change your circumstances.   The key to good organization is that the give-and-take between us as we follow our own dreams strengthens us individuals and as a group.  Therein, the discussions we hold with senior managers.

Some case studies next?  Do let me know if I have made it any clearer what we do for a living!

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Group consciousness: the goal of leaders and organizational theorists

Without good governance, life is solitary poor, nasty, brutish and short

So said Hobbes of countries.  This philosophy also underlies organizational theory.  Without good structure

“.  .  .  organisations, particularly large ones, are not very conscious. There is not some malign [in]efficiency at the core of them, rather semi-conscious shuffles and bodges in various directions, which are beyond the ability of any single individual to do much about. I think that animal-herd behaviour is much the best model to describe collective humanity, however intelligent and aware the individuals within it may be.”

The goals of organizational stewards is to help us be aware at an organizational level

The goal of those of us who are organizational stewards is to create organizations that are aware at an organizational level.  How do we know what we do and the effects of our actions?  This has been the subject of organizational theory since armies began and certainly since Henri Fayol wrote down how to manage the managers in his coal mine at the turn of the century.

The “cleft stick” approach in classical organizations

Until the emergence of the internet, we concentrated on designing the communication systems within the organization on a “cleft stick” basis.  Who spoke to whom?  Who had the right to decide?  Who must be consulted?  Etc, etc.

To bring it all together, we followed the apex of the organization and indeed one of the most important rules of organizational design was showing the link between each person and the person at the “top”.

We all know how well we did on the ‘classical organization project’.  Most organizations were not stewarded well and there was little attempt to manage communication properly.  Even where communication channels were well designed, in reality, information was often not passed around as it needed to be ~ sometimes with horrendous results.

The networked organizations

The internet creates another way to provide group consciousness.  We can all talk to each other directly; and we can use search engines, such as Google to find information much more quickly than ever before.

Google is an example of a company run this way (see Gary Hamel interviewing Eric Schmidt on YouTube).  There is no need for the cumbersome organizational structures of the past precisely because there is another way of creating group consciousness.

New skills for organizational stewards in the networked world

It takes new skills, of course, to develop this raised consciousness.  We are very likely to be savvy as internet users and creators.

  • We also have to understand how to read the results of the internet – judging provenance and the reliability of information.
  • We have to read the mood.
  • We have to learn to influence through this medium.
  • And we have to show that we can deliver results in the ‘real world’ through this new organizational ether.

It is time to develop the curriculum!

Who is in?  These are the questions that spring to my mind.  Who is working in this field?  What are the classical case studies?  What are the central ideas?  What are the best ways of exploring the ideas?

What is the best way of generating consciousness in the field itself?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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Eric Schmidt talking to Gary Hamel

Listen (no pun intended – 70 minutes).

 

Notes:

Eric Schmidt is the CEO of Google.  Gary Hamel is a Professor of Management at Harvard.  Schmidt’s main message is that leaders of innovative organizations like Google must listen, listen, listen.  A good listen!

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Can we manage without managers?

Quotations from Gary Hamel’s The Future of Management.

“My guess is that the most bruising skirmishes in the new millennium won’t be fought
along the battle lines that separate one competitor, ecosystem or economic bloc from
another. Rather, they will be fought along the lines that separate those who seek to
defend the prerogatives, power and prestige of their bureaucratic caste from those who
hope to build less structured, less tightly managed organizations that elicit and merit
the very best that human beings have to give.”

“Not surprisingly, most managers believe you can’t manage without managers. This is
the mother of all management orthodoxies”

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