Permission management is here to stay, at least for a while

Once a week I dip into Confused of Calcutta for an organized yet unassuming take on the development of management.

This week has a far reaching post summarizing changes that are taking place in enterprises seen through the lens of an IT manager.

I’ve spent much of the last two years trying to figure out what the future corporation will look like. I teach management. So I want to be about 10 years ahead of events to prepare 18 yr olds for their jobs they will find themselves.

This is my thinking so far.

The coordinating role of management will stay

I don’t think management will change very much, at least in so far as it is an act of coordination.

Management provides information linking one part of an enterprise to another. The localized modules of future enterprises will still need people who let them know where they are relative to each other.

Planning and control will become more sophisticated

What will change is the idea that direction comes from the apex and filters down. There is little chance that one person can understand all parts of the enterprise in this day-and-age.   Managers and CEO’s will need the ability to chair discussions about interlinks.  It wouldn’t be wise to make unilateral decisions. Any organization that lets them is unlikely to last long.

The control part of ploc will also revert to its proper meaning of feedback – show people where their work fits into the whole.

Future management will be boosted by IT

I see two types of work within management as taking off.

# 1 Collecting data, sorting it and presenting it a la Flowing Data.

I include real-time search here.

# 2 Figuring out the questions to be asked in the analysis.

There will still be room for people who specialize in how the parts interlink. Knowing the questions to ask, and revising the questions, will remain an important specialist function.

Managing will remain managing

And then there will be the traditional role of managing. Are we able to get together a group of people who believe in each other enough to work on a project from beginning to end?

  • Can we conceptualize the project?
  • Can we reshape the project as we go?
  • Can we keep the stakeholders together long enough to do it?

There will always be a role for people who get on with it.  It is just, they are unlikely to be any more important than other players. They are simply doing an essential task the way other people do an essential task. While others will provide expertise, they’ll provide real-time communication, feedback filtered through the right questions delivered at a time when people can act on it, and continual questioning of whether we are going in the right direction at the right pace in the right company.

Permission management is here to stay.

Bad management just got harder

How will social media change management?

I’ve spent much of the last two year’s pondering how management will change now we can use social media in business.  Social media, for the uninitiated means the two way read-write web.

If Boeing is going to click together aeroplanes like lego, what is the job of management?

At last, I have an answer that satisfies me. Management will not change very much at all.

What will change is that the rentier culture will get a rent – a tear that’s as vicious as wind ripping through an old sail.

Bad management just got harder

In short, bad management will increasingly get short shrift.

Let me illustrate with this example.

BNET today listed three of the America’s 3 stupidest management practices.

I’ve left their labels and added my summary in street language. You’ll recognize all of them.

Then below, I’ve added the positive behaviors that we psychologists look for in assessment centers.

Dangerous Complexity [signing off on codswallop because we think it came from an expert]

Dysfunctional Internal Competition [rewarding brown nosing rather than something useful]

Breaking-up Teams Constantly [making sure no one gets together otherwise they’ll spot we are emperors’ with no clothes]

We’ve known how to manage well for years

Even psychologists know how.  Here are three behaviors (good) psychologists look out for in an assessment centre.

1.  Did the manager summarize the situation, the group goal, and the goals for each person in the team on one side of paper, in words that every member of the team understood?

2.  No matter what the provocation (and we give some), did the manager bring the conversation back to the group goal, and the individual’s role, and explore how the task could be structured better, and more fairly?

3.  In the one page instruction, did the manager lay out a clear structure so that each member of the team is able to anticipate each others actions and, if formal ‘signals’ are not good enough, did the manager allow sufficient time and resources for them to rehearse until their actions become predictable and devoid of unpleasant surprises? (Pleasant surprises are allowed.)

Our job as managers

We do know how to manage, and we do know how to manage well.  We just get muddled up when we muddle management with “being the boss” and with profiteering.

I’ve satisfied my own mind that there is a role for Hannibal of the ‘A’ team – and that it is much the same as it has ever been:

  • Represent the team to itself
  • Coordinate when for whatever reason the team cannot coordinate directly
  • Reflect back to the team the possibilities that are emerging.

Managers in politics, church and business

It is hard to manage well.  Many of us try. Few succeed.

That is why elections are important. Imperfect as they are, elections allows us to test what our leaders think of us, to sense how the rest of the world will treat us when we push out our leaders as a symbol of our purpose, and to use the campaign to see how well we will coordinate when we act together.

Of course, in lieu of an election we could hire a psychologist. Some political parties do.  I was once asked to choose priests.  I declined. I could have done the job. I am atheist.  But I explained to the Bishop that I thought priests were chosen by God.  We must be the change we want to see in the world and organizations must be coherent.

What social media has changed in business is the value of capital.  Capital is no longer the only source of authority.  The day of one manager telling a bevy of unskilled people what to do is over.  For most of us, this is a knowledge-based world.  Authority comes from our ability to do our job.

Yet, company law has not kept up.  It will catch up, eventually.  There are some people working on it.  I understand Vermont intends to be the centre of talent-based companies, as London is (was?) of finance, and other places are of Anonymous Money.

Go get your things. We are leaving now.

We do know how to manage. We have known for a long time.   Even psychologists can watch you, rate you, and show you umpteen ways you could have done something differently.

We know how to do this.  Let’s get it done.

Selling organizational acumen: my how-to has a gap

Not a popular profession

I’ve always been a ‘managerialist’- a dirty word, I know.

But I’ve been a managerialist because I am fascinated by good management.

Bad management is just annoying, if not disgusting, in the way we always find cultural incompetence dispiriting – dirtying. Yuck.

So I don’t necessarily love managers. In the way, I don’t necessarily love cricketers but I appreciate a well played game that entertains us.

I just like watching managers.  I like figuring out what they do. And I like it when we can spot how to simplify operations.

  • It’s fun to figure out some back-room system that makes life for people on the front line a lot easier.
  • It’s fun to figure out a set of shelves that cut out 15 minutes of daily rummaging in filing cabinets and operate simultaneously as a kanban system, alerting us to when we need to reorder.
  • It’s fun to automate a clerical system so something repetitive can be dispensed in with 1% of the work.
  • It’s fun to throw out a computer system and use a simple diary to record what we do because that is easier.

But our fun should always result in ways that let people do their jobs more easily and more effectively.

An indecipherable profession

Of course, people don’t always say thank you. They might not have a strong sense of how a little order in the background cuts down a lot of day to day irritation.

Yet, it is fun to watch them perform more smoothly and more elegantly as a result.

Who has written on the selling of management consultancy?

I don’t recall reading anything about the relationship between people who sell management ideas and the people they sell them too.

Anyone?  Or is this just one particular case of selling services?