Command and control management has less and less friends, and it’s quite terminally ill as well. The heirs are fighting for a piece of the estate, not quite sure what to take. It’s the time to replace the organizational model, but not with just another one.
The history of management is the history of managing time, effort, and outcomes. It’s a history of control that started with very good intentions. In the beginning, it was a case of making work more ‘scientific’ which was a premise to make it efficient, predictable and replicable.
Cultural shifts, technological tectonic plates movements and dissolution of a standard classification of skills in favour of mixed, unpredictable and constant new ones, have made command a control not a bad or terrible thing but simply something not as effective as before. Even traditional full blown command and control structures such as armies have to embed some non-control and non-command mechanisms, such as the VUCA (Volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) military concepts of the 90’s.
In the other extremes of the spectrum, the love for self management has increased. Self- management it not the absence of management but another form or it, certainly the opposite of command and control, yet not always understood as ‘a form of management’. I’ve written about the trade offs before (see my now 15 year old article Kings or Cousins)
As in any pendulum in history, the fancy guys now are the extreme self-management, represented by the iconic Halocracy, embraced by the likes of Zappos, and far form a plain sailing shift and implementation. It would be simply naïve to think that this can be implemented anywhere and with no liabilities.
We know that command and control is, at the very least, in intensive care unit, and it may not make it after all. But we are less clear as to its real replacement. Empowerment, devolution, self-management, all go in the opposite direction. The problem is how much of this is fit for purpose in any particular organization.
The clue is probably close to what I call ‘cohabitation’ of different models inside the firm, the coexistence of different ‘collaborative spaces’, form tight to lose management (and control), instead of a single overriding model. (Building remarkable organizations)
Another clue has to do with experimentation, the trying and prototyping of models. There are areas, pockets, units that could experiment with models of management without compromising the entire ‘unity’ of the firm. As with ‘cohabitation’, this requires a bit of courage and a lot of trust.
Leadership today must come with the request for experimentation. There is poor trial and error, and poor prototyping of organizational models in the modern company . We are obsessed with uniformity and with ‘the model’. The best model may be the one that has many models under one model, excuse the semantic trick.
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