Network management

Gary Hamel, management guru, has a couple of posts about about management in the network age. On the web, he says, authority trickles up, not down.
The first, on a WSJ blog is called ‘The Facebook generation vs the Fortune 500’, and in it he discusses the expectations of Generation F: “At a minimum, they’ll expect the social environment of work to reflect the social context of the Web, rather than as is currently the case, a mid-20th-century Weberian bureaucracy”.

With that in mind, I compiled a list of 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life. These are the post-bureaucratic realities that tomorrow’s employees will use as yardsticks in determining whether your company is “with it” or “past it.” In assembling this short list, I haven’t tried to catalog every salient feature of the Web’s social milieu, only those that are most at odds with the legacy practices found in large companies. [Growing up online will profoundly shape the workplace expectations of the Facebook Generation]

I thought there was much of interest here, although I wondered if there was a touch of playing to the gallery involved also. Individually, there are no strong surprises on the list, although it would be interesting to read of organizations which model a variety of these behaviors:
1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
12. Hackers are heroes.
In the second, on a HBR blog, he reports the outcomes of a meeting of management leaders to discuss major management challenges in this environment.

Before arriving, each of the 35 attendees participated in an hour-long interview. The double-barreled question: What is it about the way large organizations are currently managed that will most imperil their ability to thrive in the decades ahead; and given this, what fundamental changes will be needed in management principles, processes and practices? [25 Stretch Goals for Management – Gary Hamel –]

The outcome here is a set of 25 “moonshots for management”. As an example, here is Number 7: “Redefine the work of leadership. The notion of the leader as a heroic decision maker is untenable. Leaders must be recast as social-systems architects who enable innovation and collaboration.”
And here is number 16 “Empower the renegades and disarm the reactionaries. Management systems must give more power to employees whose emotional equity is invested in the future rather than in the past.”

One thought on “Network management”

  1. When you asked for organizations that model Hamel’s list of 12 behaviors, I immediately thought of a Fast Company article I read a few years ago about the W. L. Gore Co., makers of Gore-Tex. When he left Dupont, Bill Gore set out to create a company that would model the social dynamics of a car pool, not the online environment. I think the parallels are striking.

    Here are a few excerpts of the article.

    “So Bill Gore threw out the rules. He created a place with hardly any hierarchy and few ranks and titles. He insisted on direct, one-on-one communication; anyone in the company could speak to anyone else. In essence, he organized the company as though it were a bunch of small task forces. To promote this idea, he limited the size of teams — keeping even the manufacturing facilities to 150 to 200 people at most. That’s small enough so that people can get to know one another and what everyone is working on, and who has the skills and knowledge they might tap to get something accomplished — whether it’s creating an innovative product or handling the everyday challenges of running a business.

    Leaders Are Talent Magnets

    “Gore’s knack for innovation doesn’t come from throwing money or bodies at a challenge, or from building a great ivory tower of an R&D lab. It springs from a culture where people feel free to pursue ideas on their own, communicate with one another, and collaborate out of self-motivation rather than a sense of duty. Gore enshrines the idea of “natural leadership.” Leaders aren’t designated from on high. People become leaders by actually leading, and if you want to be a leader there, you have to recruit followers. Since there’s no chain of command, no one has to follow. In a sense, you become a talent magnet: You attract other talented people who want to work with you. You draw them with your passion for what you’re working on and the credibility that you’ve built over time.

    “There is no codified set of ranks and positions as there is in the typical corporation. As a Gore “associate,” you’re supposed to morph your role over time to match your skills. You’re not expected to fit into some preconceived box or standardized organizational niche. Your compensation is tied to your “contribution” and decided by a committee, much the way it’s done in law firms. The company looks at your past and present performance as well as your future prospects, which takes away the potential disincentive for investing time and effort in speculative projects. Gore encourages risk taking. When Gore people pull the plug on a failing initiative, they’ll still have a “celebration” with beer or champagne, just as they would if it had been a success.”

    The Fabric of Creativity

    December 2004

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