Management Moonshots — Part II

Posted by Gary Hamel on March 2, 2009

What is it about the way large organizations are currently managed, structured, and led that will most imperil their ability to thrive in the decades ahead?

Given that, what sorts of changes will be needed in management principles, processes and practices if we are to build companies that are truly fit for the future?

In May 2008, 35 management scholars and practitioners gathered to debate these questions. (For more background on the conference, see my earlier post, Management Moonshots Part I.) The goal of the conclave: to develop a portfolio of grand challenges for reinventing the work of management. Dozens of ideas were put forward. Some (changing corporate governance laws) were rejected as being out of scope, while others (redesigning work along the lines of a multiplayer computer game) were deemed overly specific. Nevertheless, some broad themes did emerge—and were ultimately captured in the form of 25 “management moonshots.”

Unsurprisingly, some moonshots were more fervently and universally endorsed than others. Ten challenges in particular were regarded as uniquely critical. I describe these challenges at length in the February issue of the Harvard Business Review. Here’s a quick rundown of them:

1. Ensuring that managerial work serves a higher purpose. Management, both in theory and practice, must orient itself to the achievement of noble, socially significant goals.

2. Fully embedding the ideas of community and citizenship in management systems. Management practices must reflect the interdependence of all stakeholder groups and must not give undue weight to the interest of managers themselves.

3. Reconstructing the philosophical foundations of management.
To create truly resilient organizations, machine-age management process must be rebuilt using principles borrowed from fields as diverse as biology, theology, political science and urban design.

4. Eliminating the pathologies of formal hierarchy.
Tomorrow’s management systems must encourage the development of natural hierarchies, where power flows up from the bottom rather than down from the top, and where leaders emerge instead of being appointed.

5. Reducing fear and increasing trust. Mistrust and fear are toxic to innovation and engagement and must be wrung out of management processes.

6. Reinventing the means of control. To maximize discipline and adaptability, organizations must develop management systems that foster control from within (based on shared values and norms) and reduce the need for control from without (via rules and sanctions).

7. Redefining the work of leadership. In a complex and dynamic environment, leaders must be more than prescient decision-makers; they must also be entrepreneurs of meaning and architects of collaboration.

8. Expanding and harnessing diversity. To succeed in the future, organizations need management systems that value diversity, disagreement, and divergence as highly as conformance, consensus, and cohesion.

9. Reinventing strategy making as an emergent process. In a turbulent world, strategy making can no longer be a top down activity. What is required instead is a strategy process that reflects the biological principles of variety, selection, and retention.

10. De-structuring and disaggregating the organization. To become more adaptable and innovative, large entities must be disaggregated into smaller, more malleable units. No longer can scale come at the expense of agility.

Next week I’ll enumerate the other 15 management moonshots, and respond to your comments.

Readers, which of these moonshots do you think is the most important one for organizations to address now? And why?


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