flowing motion

Bad management just got harder

Posted on: September 25, 2009

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.

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