A framework for Management Innovation exists .. we just don’t call it “Management”

Summary

Management innovation is available from the world of organizational development, as its principles and dynamics are closely aligned to Hamel’s suggestion that “activities will still need to be coordinated, individual efforts aligned, objectives decided upon, knowledge disseminated, and resources allocated, but increasingly this work will be distributed out to the periphery“.

Moonshot(s) (G. Hamel’s term for big goals)

- Retool management for an open world

- Humanize the language of business

- Rebuild management’s philosophical foundations

Problem

What is today called Enterprise 2.0 and/or Social Business can also be seen as the emergent stage of the intersection of significant advances in information technology, management science applied to business process and the analysis and control of operational activities. These forces and factors are converging in today’s workplaces, wherein a continuous flow of information is the rule rather than the exception. Thus, it’s essential to cast a critical eye on the fundamental assumptions of work design and how work is managed. The core assumptions embodied in widely-used methodologies today still present work as “static sets of tasks and knowledge arranged in specific constellations on an organization chart” (see all major job evaluation methodologies for more detail).

It’s getting clearer and clearer today that the capabilities and dynamics of what started in the consumer realm as social software … those funny things called blogs, and wikis, and widgets stitched together into and by web services, and now significant integrated “social” collaborative platforms … are finding (and have found) their ways into the workplace.

That they have migrated to the workplace makes sense. People have always (at work) been creating and building up “… knowledge through exchanging information, talking and arguing and pointing out other ideas and sources of information and ways to do things.” Such services and tools and the reasons for which people use them are the means by which general human activity (purposeful and otherwise) translates to the online environment.

The labels above are said to denote a more interactive, less static environment. Whether we like it or not, we are passing from an era in which things were assumed to be controllable (able to be deconstructed and then assembled into a clear, linear, always replicable and thus static form) to an era characterized by a continuous flow of information. Because it feeds the conduct of organizations large and small, it is a flow that necessarily demands to be interpreted and shaped into useful inputs and outputs.

The methodologies still in use today generally did not foresee working with networked information flows, and thus the way work is designed and managed does not really address how it could or should be managed.

Solution

We need to revisit the fundamental principles of work design AND the basic rules used to configure hierarchical organizations in which the primary assumption is that knowledge is put to use in a vertical chain of decision-making.

I am not arguing that we need to replace hierarchy holus-bolus. Rather, I am suggesting that the capabilities of information systems combined with social computing capabilities and two decades of experience with team development and organizational development processes can permit centralization (read hierarchy) where and when necessary, and networked configurations where and when necessary … both centralization and decentralization.

It’s critical that leaders and managers understand this at a fundamental level .. not only with respect to IT enterprise architecture and business processes, but also in terms of what it means for the work design and the organizational culture initiatives that pertain to any given organization.

Centralization and decentralization operating simultaneously and / or in parallel means that some aspects of work activities will be relatively more predictable and controllable, whereas others (that are equally important) will be subject to both the vagaries and magic of human connection, collaboration and relatively predictable group and individual dynamics.

Practical Impact

- Changes to organizational structure that reflect the operations and dynamics of people connected in networks

- Changes to fundamental assumptions about organizational structures

- Fundamental changes to philosophy, practices and methods of managing peoples’ activities at work

- New metrics that reflect how work is planned, carried out, overseen and put into use within and by networks

Challenges

- Mental models

- Mindsets derived from said mental models

- Practical experience and references

- Tolerance for and/or acceptance of ambiguity and uncertainty

- Unfamiliarity with and / or disbelief in openness or transparency

First Steps

The necessary first steps are underway “out there” in the rapidly-growing arena of Enterprise 2.0 and / or Social Business experiments.

I say ‘experiments’ because it’s my current opinion that there’s relatively little real organization design and organizational change experience or understanding amongst the wave of technologists and analysts who are promoting the changes towards what may become a new paradigm for networked knowledge work. I’d be graciously apologetic if it were shown to be otherwise.

That said .. the (ongoing) changes are real, the Internet and social computing are not going away, and economic value is (still) increasingly being derived from near-tangible and non-tangible sources.

There’s lots of adaptation required still .. most of all to management models and mindsets.

Credits

The work of …

Harold Jarche, Gary Hamel, Charles Handy, Peter Drucker, Stan Davis, Chris Meyer, Karen Stephenson, Valdis Krebs, Yochai Benkler, David Weinberger, Eric Trist, Russ Ackoff, Marvin Weisbord, Edgar Schein, Chris Argyris .. to name a few (and Bill Passmore, Richard Boyatzis, Peter Senge, Peter Block).

Too many to catch them all here, actually …
.

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