Today, we believe that the problem in most organizations isn’t simply that management is inefficient, it’s that the role and purpose of a “manager” haven’t kept pace with what’s needed, Harvard Business Review writes. We have summarized their brilliant text.
Management has long been associated with the five basic functions: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. These default dimensions are sufficient when pursuing a fixed target in a stable landscape. But take away the stability of the landscape, and one needs to start thinking about the fluidity of the target. This is what’s happening today and managers must move away from the friendly confines of these five tasks. To help organizations meet today’s challenges, managers must move from:
Directive to instructive: When robots driven by artificial intelligence (AI) do more tasks like more efficiently manage invoices, there will be no need for a supervisor to direct people doing such work.
What will be needed from managers is to think differently about the future in order to shape the impact AI will have on their industry. This means spending more time exploring the implications of AI, helping others extend their own frontiers of knowledge, and learning through experimentation to develop new practices.
Restrictive to expansive: Too many managers micromanage and needlessly monitor other people’s work. This tendency restricts employees’ ability to develop their thinking and decision making — exactly what is needed to help organizations remain competitive. Managers today need to encouraging people to learn about competitors old and new, and to think about the ways in which the marketplace is unfolding.
Exclusive to inclusive: Too many managers believe they are smart enough to make all the decisions without the aid of anyone else. To them, the proverbial buck always stops at their desks. Yet, it has been our experience that when facing new situations, the best managers create leadership circles, or groups of peers from across the firm, to gain more perspective about problems and solutions.
Managers need to be bringing a diverse set of thinking styles to bear on the challenges they face. Truly breakaway thinking gets its spark from the playful experimentation of many people exchanging their views, integrating their experiences, and imagining different futures.
Repetitive to innovative: Managers often encourage predictability — they want things nailed down, systems in place, and existing performance measures high. The problem with this mode is it leads managers to focus only on what they know at the expense of what is possible.
Organizations need managers to think much more about innovating beyond the status quo – and not just in the face of challenges. Idris Mootee, CEO of Idea Couture Inc., could not have said it better: “When a company is expanding, when a manager starts saying ‘our firm is doing great’, or when a business is featured on the cover of a national magazine – that’s when it’s time to start thinking. When companies are under the gun and things are falling apart, it is not hard to find compelling reasons to change. Companies need to learn that their successes should not distract them from innovation. The best time to innovate is all the time.”
Problem solver to challenger: Solving problems is never a substitute for growing a business. Many managers have told us that their number one job is “putting out fires,” fixing the problems that have naturally arisen from operating the business. We don’t think that should be the only job of today’s manager. Rather, the role calls for finding better ways to operate the firm — by challenging people to discover new and better ways to grow, and by reimagining the best of what’s been done before. This requires practicing more reflection — to understand what challenges to pursue, and how one tends to think about and respond to those challenges.
Employer to entrepreneur: Many jobs devolve into trying to please one’s supervisor. The emphasis on customers, competitors, innovations, marketplace trends, and organizational performance morphs too easily into what the manager wants done today — and how he or she wants it done.
The job of a manager must be permanently recast from an employer to an entrepreneur. Being entrepreneurial is a mode of thinking, one that can help us see things we normally overlook and do things we normally avoid. Thinking like an entrepreneur simply means to expand your perception and increase your action — both of which are important for finding new gateways for development. And this would make organizations more future facing — more vibrant, alert, playful — and open to the perpetual novelty it brings.