Command and control management has fewer 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 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 plate movements and dissolution of a standard classification of skills in favour of mixed, unpredictable and constant new ones, have made command and 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.
At the other end of the spectrum, the love for
self-management has increased.
Self-management it not the absence of management but another form of it, certainly the opposite of command and control, yet not always understood as ‘a form of management’.
As with any pendulum swing in history, the fancy guys are now the extreme self-management organizations, represented by the iconic Halocracy, embraced by the likes of Zappos, where the shift and implementation was far from plain sailing. 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 an intensive care unit, and it may not make it at 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’, from tight to loose management (and control), instead of a single overriding model.
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.
WEBINAR: A Better Way to…design your organizational structures to create a remarkable organization for the future
In these challenging times, we know that the organization has to be very adaptable and flexible, beyond what it has been in the past, but what are the organizational principles that can lead to that? Is there a singular best model? Or, more importantly, can several possibly competing models coexist in one single organization? And, if so, what kind of management and leadership are to be reinvented?
Previous Issues of BackInAWeekorso:
Unprecedented times? Sure. Let’s move on please
Empowerment, Engagement and Ownership Culture must meet at same point. Obvious, simple and incredibly forgotten
Employee Engagement Frameworks and the Productivity Magnet
Is Employee Engagement whatever is Measured by Employee Surveys?
Management: By Invitation Unbundle Reporting Lines and Management Teams
Safe to Talk, Need to Talk, Must Talk. Team Meetings and Airtime
A Critical Thinking Health Check
We need teaming up, not more teams
If the business is the mission, culture is the strategy