“Though you may not take a person and put a job description against them and say this person is a manager, there is a lot of management going on, and in fact, perhaps management is even more important in an organization with a work chart, as opposed to an org chart, because there is more to manage.” – Ethan Bernstein, A Harvard Business School professor.
Taking it one step further, David Burkus affirms that “‘managerless’ means everyone is a manager.”
Managers are professionals who are responsible for both attending to the needs of the people and the tasks involved in attending to the same people. They are responsible for directing and controlling the work and staff of a business, or a department within it.
For slow moving and less complicated businesses, the old hierarchical management structures that have to deal with just a few people at the top for leadership does not even work anymore.
Nowadays, with more unstable and confusing businesses growing by the day, decentralised controls and leadership through networks of people at all levels are very vital for success.
Why am I thinking like this?
A few numbers of people do not have the time or resources to go through mountain loads of data about their company’s performance, industry, economic environment or competitors. Speak less of a single person. They do not even have the time to propagate the right data to the right people in real time. Nowadays, organisations move faster than those structures to be effective.
Take the military community for example, where regular military rank exists.
Senior leaders do all of the leading, while most of the important managerial tasks are being delegated to the lower ranking personnel. Junior team members are endowed with great deals of responsibility and the autonomy to make very important decisions.
I often wondered if it was always perfect. Of course not!
But I have heard that with such a culture that has been established on trust and extreme levels of accountability, the teamwork mechanism works very well.
This could be said of today’s business organisations, especially in highly competitive environments.
I recently worked with a company that deals with all forms of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) consultancy. As the company grew rapidly, the industry continued to change due to technological advancements and the competitive landscape broadened; we knew that our structures and approaches to work would have to evolve as well, at least.
So, are organisations better off without managers?
Have we had the time to think about the persistence in the demands for management, with or without managers?
Maybe we need new models to strengthen our ability to build leadership and managerial capacity, at scale. And other than trying to shift the management mindset from control to empowerment and support, maybe we need a more fruitful path.
Systems and cultures designed to develop new leaders and truly empower them is the key to success in any futuristic organisation.
The upside is almost endless, and this could include more people leading at a lower payroll cost, more people who feel connected to their work because they are inspired by those around them, more senior leaders actually getting to focus on visionary leadership rather than management, easier succession planning because you don’t have to spend months looking for one “Superwoman or Superman” who can allegedly do-it-all, and so on and so forth.
Does this easily apply to all organisations? Maybe not. But it does apply to any company I would want to build or work for.