March 24, 2010
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The experience of growing up online will profoundly shape the workplace expectations of “Generation F” – the Facebook Generation. 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.
If your company hopes to attract the most creative and energetic members of Gen F, it will need to understand these Internet-derived expectations, and then reinvent its management practices accordingly. Sure, it’s a buyer’s market for talent right now, but that won’t always be the case—and in the future, any company that lacks a vital core of Gen F employees will soon find itself stuck in the mud.
Most of the industrial pioneers who created “modern” management—individuals like Frederick Taylor, Frank Gilbreth, Henry Ford, Alfred Sloan, and Donaldson Brown—were born in the 19th century. These bold thinkers would no doubt be surprised to learn that their inventions, which included workflow optimization, variance analysis, capital budgeting, functional specialization, divisionalization, and project management, are still the cornerstones of large-scale management systems.
In my last post I shared ten “moonshots for management.” These were the product of a robust discussion I hosted last year which brought together 35 of the world’s most distinguished business thinkers. Herewith, the rest of the “top 25,” which I wrote about in-depth in February’s Harvard Business Review.
11. Dramatically reduce the pull of the past.
Management processes often contain subtle biases that favor continuity over change. While continuity is important, these subtle baked-in preferences for the status quo must be exposed, examined, and, if necessary, excised.
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?
Part 1 …
If you’re a professional manager, here’s a question for you: What’s the obstinate, knotty management problem you’re working to solve—the one that bedevils your organization, that lies beyond the boundaries of best practice, and has no obvious solution? In other words, are you working on anything that might advance the state of the art in a fundamental way? Are you aiming to fundamentally improve the technology we use to mobilize human resources to productive ends—that is, the technology of management? If no, why not?
Today’s bankers are not the first to embrace the mercenary creed I described in my last post. Seventy-six years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt proclaimed that . . .
“there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.”
Recognizing that the banking crisis was the product of lax moral standards (and not merely a lax regulatory regime), FDR used his presidential pulpit to deliver a short and pointed sermon:
Part 1 …
Last week my mother-in-law passed away. She spent most of her 85 years working with her husband on their family farm. Starting with a leased tractor and a rented parcel of land, the pair ultimately grew their ranch into a 1,000 acre spread of debt-free farmland in California’s fertile San Joaquin valley. How did they accomplish this feat? By working 14-hour days six days out of seven. By taking few vacations and forgoing most luxuries. By building up cash reserves in good years so they could survive bad ones. By diversifying crops in order to reduce their exposure to fluctuating prices. And by paying themselves modestly while investing everything they could in land and equipment.
Following the success of our conference and the interest around all the various dimensions of the Gen Y topic, we are delighted to share with you our speakers’ presentations.
My abbreviated diagnosis of Detroit’s ills in my last two posts provoked a number of thoughtful and impassioned comments. Many readers pointed to Detroit’s improved quality ratings. A sampling:
“I have read many articles, including yours, that blame Detroit on everything from A to Z. They are building the best products ever, today! Their quality has surpassed many European makes, and is on par with Toyota and Honda.” (Michael Burns).
“This guy that wrote this is clueless just like the drive by media…Ford Motor has the most 5 star safety rated vehicles and is ahead of the curve on design and innovation. Getting over the perceptions and stereotypes of the clueless is just gonna take time . . .” (Tony in Ohio).
Unfortunately, one can find Detroit-style thinking in industries other than autos.
Take the PC industry. Years ago, in an article written for the Harvard Business Review, I posed the following question: Why was the most expensive appliance in most homes—the personal computer—also the ugliest? PCs were clunky beige boxes that spewed cords and cables across your desktop like a disemboweled robot. A few years later Apple would introduce its first iMac, the candy-colored, all-in-one home computer that heralded the company’s creative renaissance.
Why was it Apple that took the artistic lead, and has been able to keep it ever since? Because its competitors couldn’t believe that people would pay for great design—for the sheer, stupid joy of interacting with something that was gorgeous to look and lovely to touch. Like GM and Ford, Apple’s competitors knew everything about cost, and next to nothing about perceived value.