The Solution: Leadership and Management for the 21st Century
I am suggesting a rather radical approach to the process re-engineering required to pull ourselves and our organizations out of the pits and back into the game. Frankly, it begins with leadership. We have to be led out of the dark places we now inhabit. The problem with leadership is that it is – in business, non-profits and government – totally antithetical to our political system and philosophy. Our democracy is in much better shape than our economy so perhaps there is a lesson in there for us.
Identifying and Appointing Our Leaders
Our business leaders are very rarely elected by virtue of their competence and performance. More often, they are; dictatorships (sole proprietors); family-owned monarchies where the crown is passed to heirs; pseudo meritocracies where high performers are imported by the board from outside the company; or corrupt, criminal gangs that promote the most manipulative con-men from among executive ranks only. I hate to be so cynical but make a list of the organizations you know who hold elections for executive post and share with us. I dare you!
The democratic process is our most cherished accomplishment yet we fail to recognize the irony of its absence in business leadership.
Gary Hamel challenges us in the current issue of Harvard Business Review (February, 2009) to acknowledge and develop 25 modern management practices. It’s a brilliant proposal. Most of the 25 have direct and immediate implications for the future of BPM so I urge you to read the article. Here’s my brief summary for your consideration:
- Promote interdependence by encouraging the formation of smaller business units that participate in multiple internal as well as external networks
- Reinvent management at the individual level and provide everyone the data they need (within their small business units) to know how they are performing in real time. Transparency will ensure that only the strong survive. There will be no hiding from the truth when you leverage information.
- Recast the organization as a social system where leaders are social architects who provide everyone the time, space and resources to collaborate and innovate.
- Celebrate and harness divergence of ideas and diversity of tactics.
- Minimize the tendency to recede to the way things have always been done. Recessions are born out of retrenching.
- Innovation and invention will provide for the variety, selection and deployment required for evolution.
- Spread the responsibility for strategy and direction throughout the hive, herd or flock. “Buy-in” is a notion that involves a sales job. Aim for participation instead.
- Democratize information. When leaders hoard information, they are feared instead of trusted.
- Enable the revolutionaries and measure the number of new ideas people bring to the table. Find your renegades.
- Promote experimentation and accept small, failed pilots as proof that people are trying to find a new and better way to make your widgets.
- Include people of all ranks in the engineering of the work they do. Defining one’s work incites a deep sense of ownership and passion.
- Retrain leaders and managers so they can acquire the tools and practice management in complex ecosystems.