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Management for the future

Therese S Kinal

The world is changing - but how will managers deal with the workplace of the future? Therese S Kinal investigates

It’s time to rethink management. 65% of people are unhappy at work, only 14% understand their company’s strategy, and 75%  are seeking jobs as we speak. Opportunities and challenges now cross geographical, cultural and functional boundaries, and changes occur in our industry, marketplace and society faster than ever before. Today’s leaders face increased complexity and ambiguity, and employees and customers alike are demanding engagement, transparency and responsibility. If we ever thought we had ‘control’, it’s definitely gone now.

Accelerating rates of globalisation and rapid technological advances are also changing how we work. 1 billion people are now on Facebook , and 500 million Tweets get sent everyday . Customers don’t want to be sold to. They want to connect with your brand and play a role in the development, sales and marketing of your products – whether they are in London, Shanghai or Los Angeles. Approximately 74% of the US$2.8 trillion  Merger & Acquisitions industry is cross-border transactions, and 1 in 8 of people now live and work in countries other than where they were born . In the old world, many of us developed, marketed and sold products and services and had bosses and colleagues all based in the same postcode. Today, we have to develop, market, sell and collaborate across time zones, organisations and cultures  – often with people we hardly know.

In this brave new world, the only constant is change. And it is our ability to take action and adapt to a constantly changing environment that will separate the successful leaders and organisations of tomorrow from the rest.

Leading and following

All of this presents a completely new challenge for how we think about and practice management. Organisations of the future are neither consensus driven nor top down. They aren’t dictatorships nor are they anarchies. They’re not merely occupied with increasing shareholder value or making their people happy. Leaders of the future know that the two go together, and that happy and productive workforces is not about team building exercises or lucrative benefit packages, but about creating a working environment that offers purpose, mastery, challenge and autonomy, and in turn, creates more business value than the traditional approach.

After a century of trying to control people, processes and information, we have come to a point in organisational history where we need to recognise that what worked before just simply isn’t enough anymore. Traditional management is fine if you want compliance, but if you want innovation and growth, you need to engage your people on a whole new level.

Take for example the simple hypothesis that employees will work harder for more money. This of course is the reason why most companies have cascaded their corporate strategy down throughout their organisation in the form of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) linked to bonuses. However, in research conducted by London Business School, respondents ranked financial remuneration as 7th most important, after factors such as ‘Working with good colleagues’ and ‘Independence’ in the answer to “When thinking about a job, how important is each of the following factors to you, as something you value?”.

Organisations of the future need to operate as living systems that are interconnected and interdependent, and capable of responding to constantly changing environments. The role of the leader is to inspire greatness, not control or manage through KPIs. Likewise, the approach to strategic innovation and problem solving is participatory, not top down. Co-creation, dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty, and non-hierarchical networks are all key to making this work.

Rethinking management is not about promoting the latest fad, repackaging an old concept or ignoring all the great work that has been done in this field up until now. It is about asking ourselves why we still use out-dated management practices, and taking a good, honest look at the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s diverse set of employees, customers and other stakeholders, and strategically choosing what to stop, what to start and what to reinvent. Here are some small and big examples of what you should start and stop doing: 

What’s In
Purpose as basis for strategy
Hiring people smarter than you
Fair process
Adaptive strategy execution
Ecosystems / Communities of practice
Learning through action
Process innovation
Flexible, adaptive thinking organisations
People driven innovation
Continual change and adaptation
Freedom + scope + opportunities
Customer engagement
Meeting insights and next steps

What’s Out
Shareholder value as basis for strategy
Having all the answers
Top down problem solving
Strategy implementation
Knowledge management by IT
Classroom training
Process optimisation
Procedural, bureaucratic organisations
Systems driven innovation
Unfreeze – change – freeze
Job descriptions
Traditional sales & marketing
Meeting minutes

Whether you’re motivated by making a difference or financial returns, it simply makes good business sense. Business with higher employee engagement rates show on average 12% higher customer advocacy, 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability .
Isn’t it time you kicked your organisation into the 21st century?

Therese S. Kinal is the CEO and co-founder of Unleash, a disruptive innovator in the management education and consulting industry. She is the co-author of Unleashing: The Future of Work and writes, runs workshops and works with clients on a range of management issues including: The Future of Organisations, Leadership Development, Organisational Change, Adaptive Strategy Execution, Living Brand, Complex Problem Solving, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Therese will be running a workshop on “Management for the Future” as part of the ILM Masterclass Programme on Wednesday 27th November 2013. You can book tickets here.

If you want to hear more from Therese you can read her blog or follow her on Twitter.


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