links for 2007-12-19

December 19, 2007

in delicious

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Husband December 21, 2007 at 9:48 am

Hi, Stuart. Thanks for your comments on my blog post. I do not consider them to be a rant, but rather useful points and questions with which to further a general enquiry or exploration. As is my wont, I thought about what you said and asked, and replied on my blog as follows:

*********************** ********************8

Jon, You didn’t say whether you thought / recommended anyone read this book.

You’re right, I didn’t. I was or am being lazy, by relying on Hamel’s perennial Top Thinker status and comparing some of what I have had to say about wirearchy and its elements to what he is now saying.

You know I am somewhat cynical; I’ve read nothing new in the “because” list above and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that Gary has adopted these tools personally, or his company Strategos has reframed their own approach to management as part of their learning. Is it really just anecdotal? Or are there documented facts and figures; less managers, better returns, etc.?

Good point. In the book basically he uses some examples that have been around for a while.

of what customers and users bring into this. When the organization becomes an adaptive ecosystem primarily populated by customers / users “management” is truly redundant … [ Snip … ] Outsourcing has shown one dimension already; hold onto the design and the brand and what the customer wants. What happens when the customer controls their designs?

He does address these issues, but in relatively general and vague ways. What “surprised” me was that it (the book) is a generally philosophical treatise on “things have changed, and there’s been no management innovation that really comes to terms with networks, hyperlinks, knowledge used horizontally instead of vertically, the (partial) collapse of time and space, etc.” So, in a sense it is a call to awareness for many mangers / execs who may be part of the group whose awareness of the web-and-Internet’s growing impact may be derived from the “occasional-back-pocket-of-the-airplane-magazine” or “headline-glancing”. Thus for those of us who have been observing and thinking for a while, it may be frustrating that there are no real (and referenceable) tangible solutions, prescriptions, or formulae offered.

Can companies change their management DNA? Does this book give me any methods or even places to start? I remain skeptical. I know my comments may sound harsh. Then he’s held up as a guru. I’m interested in finding and understanding innovation in management and what we can do to more creatively apply ourselves to next generation work.

Interesting questions. the more I have thought about this (and your points and questions) the more I am beginning to believe that the management “innovations” he is calling for already exist.

Gosh ! That sounds provocative. What do I mean ?

I mean that there is a large and pretty coherent body of work stretching back to the 60’s that languishes in the frame of “organizational development”, that stretches from Participative Work Design through QWL and quality circles through socio-technical systems approach(es) through self-directed and self-managing teams and “workouts” then into inclusive large-scale strategic change methods and dialogue-and-consensus building models and approaches to “management” (visioning, objective setting, responsibility assignment, resource allocation, implementation, measurement, etc.) like Future Search, Open Space, dialogue circles. The individual-actor aspects of working in and with such approaches is actually (in my opinion) pretty well embedded in much of the current management and leadership development models and in the non-pop-culture application of (for example) competency models and Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence at Work or Jim Collin’s Level 5 Leadership, which probably track closely in parallel with the kinds of leadership and manahgement that (probably) work well with the kinds of leadership enquiry, decision-making and implementation implied by Dave Snowden’s Cognitive Edge approaches to intractable issues.

I use the word “frame” above because I think there is a coherence to much of what has been being developed over the past two decades or so .. much of it aimed, but by bit, at mitigating the harsher effects of having to lead and manage hierarchically under old models while coping with what actually “is”. Dave Pollard has often suggetsed that most traditional management methods are almost useless but are still in place as the proxies for status and power, but that people keep on working by constantly developing and using work-arounds.

I think OD suffers from being seen as “soft” and a “nice-to-have-time-to-do” and can be shouted down by the hard-asses, the “I want to measure everything and tolerate no slack” crowd, but I am increasingly of the opinion that there is a coherent and pertinent models or models in what exists .. it is just not seen as the dominant “management” model.

I hope the above makes sense. It does, more or less, to me. I can probably get at it better in a spoken conversation, or if I take the time to write a structured essay instead of a shoot-from-the-lip blog comment.

Jon Husband December 21, 2007 at 11:35 am

A bit of additional reflection in the shower (catalysed by your “I’m a fan of outside in”).

Two additional things. Stan Davis sorted a lot of this out about 20 years ago in a book titled Future perfect. In the quote below he doesn’t address mgt philosophy and techniques directly, but the use of OD-related principles can be inferred:

“Electronic information systems enable parts of the whole organization to communicate directly with each other, where the hierarchy wouldn’t otherwise permit it. What the hierarchy proscribes, the network facilitates: each part in simultaneous contact with all the other parts and with the company as a whole. The organization can be centralized and decentralized simultaneously: the centralizing mechanism in the structure, and the coordinating mechanism in the systems.

Networks will not replace or supplement hierarchies; rather the two will be encompassed within a broader conception that embraces both. We are still a long way from figuring out the appropriate and encompassing organization models for the economy we are now in. At the very least, it is clear that we will have to reconceptualize space, transforming it by technology from an impediment to an asset.” (pp 88-89)

In addition I think I think that what i am trying to say has been missing is innovation in synthesis, or connecting the dots that are already there, and I think I think that I have also been trying to help such a synthesis unfold by defining the organizing principle for org’ns in a networked area as ” a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on credibility, knowledge, trust and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology”.

If we think that today’s environment is more dynamic, and if we are all (at different rates) realizing that the assumptions of stability and (relatively) static knowledge and work extant from post WWII through to the beginning of the 90’s at least … I’ve more and more often heard the term “we are all living in a beta world now” …. then acknowledging the continuous flow and the need to champion-and -channel rather than command-and-control (tho’ I acknowledge that command-and-control has its spots), to be constantly developing, as in organizational “development”, then looking to that field and its closely related cousins of mgt / exec / leadership development seems to make sense to me.

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