Tag Archives: The Future of Management

Management Practices and Processes – 2 Lists from Gary Hamel

In Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, he reminds us that checklists are needed because: Every day there is more and more to manage and get right and learn.  And defeat under conditions of complexity occurs far more often despite great effort rather than from a lack of it.

Recently, someone asked me just what all is involved in management.  “There is much to get right,” but I remembered these lists from Gary Hamel’s book, The Future of Management.  Yes, this is a lot to work on, to get right, to master.  But here are the lists for every manager to work on:

• The practice of management entails (has entailed):
• Setting and programming objectives
• Motivating and aligning effort
• Coordinating and controlling activities
• Developing and aligning talent
• Accumulating and applying knowledge
• Amassing and allocating resources
• Building and nurturing relationships
• Balancing and meeting stakeholders demands

• Management processes include (have included):
• Strategic Planning
• Capital budgeting
• Project management
• Hiring and promotion
• Training and development
• Internal communications
• Knowledge management
• Periodic business reviews
• Employee assessment and compensations

A Management Problem Should Be Easy To Fix, Right? – Reflecting On BP’s Failure

Management: Organization and coordination of the activities of an enterprise in accordance with certain policies and in achievement of clearly defined objectives.


It is hard to escape news about the BP Oil Disaster.  It is omnipresent, as it should be.  But part of this week’s news has to do with the judge’s decision to block the Obama ordered 6-month moratorium on drilling.

In a Christian Science Monitor article on the decision, we find this note:

“This is not an engineering problem, it’s a management problem, and it’s BP’s management that screwed up,” says Bruce Johnson, a professor emeritus of oceanic engineering at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The moratorium “penalizes the whole industry for the mistakes of” BP management, he adds.

Here’s my thought:  since it’s a “management problem,” then the solution should be that we make sure there are no more management problems.  How confident do we feel about this actually happening?

In fact, I spoke to a group of 200-300 hundred at a conference this week, and asked this question:  “how many of you have ever seen a management failure that created problems for your organization?  Practically every hand went up.

In other words, we have not yet learned how to manage with enough precision and effectiveness to insure all desirable outcomes – to assure “achievement of clearly defined objectives.”

Thus we know that management failure does not have an easy fix.  And we know that there have been many major problems caused by management failures in major corporations/companies/organizations over the last few years.

Gary Hamel points out part of the problem in his book The Future of Management. Here’s an excerpt:

Unlike the laws of physics, the laws of management are neither foreordained nor eternal…  Whiplash change, fleeting advantages, technological disruptions, rebellious shareholders – these 21st- century challenges are testing the design limitations of organizations around the world and are exposing the limitations of a management model that has failed to keep pace with the times.

Part of the problem of “these times” is the difficulty of managing all of the complexity (like drilling down nearly 5 miles below the surface of the ocean).  The challenges of such complexity require near flawless management practices.  And we have attained nothing like such near-flawlessness.

When the problem is small, management failure is survivable.  When the problem is massive, like the BP management failure, the consequences can be almost more than we can bear.

The Throes of Change – and the Unsettledness of an Era

throes: A condition of agonizing struggle or trouble

Last night, at a business gathering, a woman said to me, in the context of the upheaval of our era, that she thinks we are living in the end times.  She admitted that other generations have felt the same way, but she really thinks this is it.

Yes, this is the feeling of many people in many different generations.  And I know too much history, and so I’m a little reluctant to jump on that bandwagon.

But do you get the feeling that everyone seems a little insecure, maybe more than a little nervous – as though we are in the midst of, in the throes of, some kind of wrenching, agonizing change?  I do.

The Future of Management

The Future of Management

In The Future of Management, Gary Hamel hints at such unease:

Unlike the laws of physics, the laws of management are neither foreordained nor eternal…  Whiplash change, fleeting advantages, technological disruptions, rebellious shareholders – these 21st- century challenges are testing the design limitations of organizations around the world and are exposing the limitations of a management model that has failed to keep pace with the times.

I think he is right.  There is a great inadequacy of models – management models, governing models…  The models we have seem to be lacking, and seem to not be working.  It all seems so unsettling.

Recently, on one of the many blogs I read (this one a political blog), I read this quote.  The author is Daniel Quinn from his book Beyond Civilization.  Here’s the quote:

No paradigm is ever able to imagine the next one.  It’s almost impossible for one paradigm to imagine that there will even be a next one.  The people of the Middle Ages didn’t think of themselves as being in the ‘middle’ of anything at all.  As far as they were concerned, the way they were living was the way people would be living to the end of time.  Even if you’d managed to persuade them that a new era was just around the corner, they would’ve been unable to tell you a single thing about it – and in particular they wouldn’t have been able to tell you what was going to make it new.  If they’d been able to describe the Renaissance in the fourteenth century, it would have been the Renaissance.
We’re no different.  For all our blather about new paradigms and emerging paradigms, it’s an unassailable assumption among us that our distant descendants will be just exactly like us.  Their gadgets, fashion, music, and so on, will surely be different, but we’re confident that their mindset will be identical – because we can imagine no other mindset for people to have.  But in fact, if we actually manage to survive here, it will be because we’ve moved into a new era as different from ours as the Renaissance was from the Middle Ages – and as unimaginable to us as the Renaissance was to the Middle Ages.

I think we are in the throes of an agonizing change:  a shift, a true shift.  We think we know some of the causes, but we may be fooling ourselves if we think we know where it is all going.  But – I think the shift is coming.  Don’t you?


You can purchase my synopsis of The Future of Management, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.

(The Woes of MySpace) The Future is Utterly Predictable — it is a Future of Constant Innovation

Boy, those old staid companies sure do get in trouble because they fail to innovate.  Yes, the times are changing, and companies better learn how to stay fresh, keep improving, keep changing.  When they’ve been around forever, it is awfully easy to get set in their ways, and watch the competition sweep right on by them.

Take that old venerable company known as MySpace.  It has been around forever.  It was way back in August, 2003 when they launched.  Times were different then.  And what they set in place back in those long-gone days just doesn’t seem to work anymore.  So the CEO Owen Van Natta, in a letter to his employees in which he announced and explained the decision to lay off 30% of their workers (400 workers), included this sober assessment:  “We need to become a more innovative company.” (read about the layoffs here, and the entire letter from the CEO here).  (Here’s a little more of his letter:  “The future success of MySpace is dependent upon us operating as a nimble and entrepreneurial company with the adaptive mentality of a start-up…  I believe this is the first difficult step toward a major turnaround – a step that will not only shore us up in the short term, but position us for long term success. We need to become a more innovative company.  Becoming more innovative is an ongoing responsibility for all of us, not a one-time effort”).

It does sound a little ludicrous, doesn’t it?  I mean, I can understand that a company as old and established as GM might get a little behind in the innovation contest.   But MySpace?  This company is only six years old.  It’s been less than six years ago that you could not have built your own MySpace page.  And yet, here it is in stark, sobering words:  “We need to become a more innovative company.”  Competitors like Facebook, and now Twitter, have just swept right on by MySpace because they are more innovative.  Who would have thought?

We should have known it was coming.  We’ve been warned.  The business books of the last 12 years have all said it, loud and clear.  The future is coming, and it’s going to be different from the past.  Constantly different.  Perpetually innovating.  The world is changing faster and faster and faster…  Here’s just a sampling of quotes:

“If it seems like your world has been topsy-turvy over the past few years…  Consider what’s coming…  Technology is not kind.  It does not wait.  It does not say please.  It slams into existing systems, and often destroys them – while creating a new system.”  (Juan Enriquez, As the Future Catches You).

“It’s finally happened.  I’ve seen a company where I can imagine working!”  Innovation is it, for the foreseeable future…”  {Tom Peters, from the foreword}.  (Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation:  Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm).

“You want to wake up your organization to the need for a strategic shift and a break from the status quo.”  (W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne,  Blue Ocean Strategy:  How to Create Uncontested Market Space and make the Competition Irrelevant).

“Even the world’s “most admired” companies aren’t as adaptable as they need to be, as innovative as they need to be, or as much fun to work in as they should be…  To put it bluntly, management innovation pays…  Remember the old saw about the tendency of generals to refight the last war rather than the one at hand?”  (Gary Hamel, The Future of Management).

“The premise of this book is a simple one:  that breakthrough innovations come by recombining the people, ideas, and objects of past technologies.  The implication, recalling William Gibson, is that the future is already here – it’s just unevenly distributed.”  (Andrew Hargadon, How Breakthroughs Happen:  The Surprising Truth About How Companies Innovate).

“When it comes to thriving in a hypercompetitive marketplace, “playing it safe” is no longer playing it smart…  the more you do something, the more important it is to challenge the assumptions and habits that built your success so as to generate a wave of innovations to build the future…  Remember, the most effective leaders are the most insatiable learners. (William C. Taylor and Polly LaBarre,  Mavericks at Work:  Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win).

“To change is to take a risk – to give up a current state in an attempt to reach a potentially more desirable one.  We tend to resist change…  In this new (postmodern or post-Web corporate world) hypercompetitive environment, market transitions are a lot faster, and the cycle of innovation has gotten increasingly shorter…  new products and services started appearing more and more frequently, resulting in even more competition.  (including:  real-time information).  Reengineering found itself outdated.”  (Benham N. Tabrizi, Rapid Transformation:  A 90-Day Plan For Fast And Effective Change).

“I held only positions that did not exist before I had them…  Conceptualizers see the future.”  (Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leadership:  A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness).

Everyone needs to think differently about the future, a future that is riddled with change, challenge, and risk.  It is a new kind of future, not the steady plodding of progress from one moment to the next, punctuated by brief bursts of innovation that characterizes much of history.  Now we face a post-9/11 future.  The future of our lives, of our work, of our businesses – and most of all, the future of our world – depends on us gaining a new understanding of the dizzying changes that lie ahead.  I call this future-readiness…  The coming Innovation Economy will herald an age of rapid, dramatic change, one in which ideas that create value, offer solutions, and fulfill needs will thrive, sweeping into the recesses of memory the comparatively primitive ideas, products, services, and processes that came before.  Innovation will be the prime source of productivity, prosperity, competition, and potentially even peace.  Innovation will be recognized as an empowering force that will drive individual prosperity and global competition.  (James Canton, Ph.D., CEO and Chairman, Institute for Global Futures, The Extreme Future:  The Top Ten Trends That Will Reshape the World for the Next 5, 10, and 20 Years).

“Never get comfortable with where you are.  Anticipate the inevitability of having to modify or change how you do business to meet your customers’ needs…  Organizations that refuse to change their methods to meet demands are likely the same stubborn organizations that are slowly going out of business.  Change is never over, said Jack Welch.”  (Ron Hunter Jr. & Michael E. Waddell, Toy Box Leadership:  Leadership Lessons from the Toys You Loved as a Child).

So, let’s all let the MySpace story be an object lesson for us all.  If we are not constantly innovating, the competition will simply pass us by.  Remember the warning from Gary Hamel:”  Every business is successful — until it’s not.”

(To purchase my synopses of many of the books quoted, with handout + audio, go to our 15 Minute Business Book site).