The Future of Management


In preparing for a future in management or just trying to remain in a management role, a person must ask themselves “What do I think the future of management will be like?”  This is a difficult question and only by looking at both the past and the present does an individual stand a chance of developing a vision of the future.

Corporate structures typically follow military models and in the past they were modeled after the vertical, rigid command and control structure of the old military (WW II).  Most managers used an autocratic management style and information flowed one way only.  This is the way it was all the time, not just in times of crisis that demanded that someone take the lead.  Employees were expected to know what to do when they were given their orders and once given their orders they were expected to shut-up and do their job.  Very little thought was given to truly inspiring employees to deliver on the corporate vision and challenging your manager on an issue was seldom heard of and not supported.  

So, that’s how it was.  There were employees and there were managers.  Employees were just laborers to get the work done.  The only real positive side for the employees of yesterday compared to today is that they generally spent a lifetime at one company.  They didn’t walk around in constant fear of being laid off or having their position off-shored to another country.  Management made the rules without input from the employees and managed the company as the management team saw fit to do so.

 The corporations of the past were also built to support this command and control methodology, by forming into vertical departments where the employees of one department had little, if any, interaction with employees of other departments.  Seldom did employees really understand the big picture.  They didn’t need to.  That was what management was there for.  Why should they worry about where the company was heading or what the income statements looked like?  They had their job to do and they did it as well as they could every day.  If they were very good at their job and management recognized them as a loyal employee, then they could be promoted.  This is how it typically went for a person’s whole career.

However, even the military has changed its ways.  More and more in both the military and corporate America, managers are being encouraged to be leaders and solicit information from their subordinates.  Leading is of key importance.  A leader has a long term vision and guides his team members and / or employees, managers have a more short term task-oriented perspective.  In addition, the use of Matrix organizations to support empowered work teams are also becoming widely accepted.  Healthy conflict is expected and innovation is typically the resulting product.

Today employees are consider knowledge workers instead of just laborers and whether they are in management or not, they can be quite powerful if they have subject matter expertise that the corporation really needs.  In fact, some corporations are supporting two different career paths in their organizations.  One path is for highly technical people that want to stay engaged with the technical aspects of their jobs and leave management to others.  The second path is the traditional path for those that want to move into management and up the ranks.

Regardless of the path an employee chooses, empowered project teams are increasingly becoming a factor in their everyday work.  All four functions of management are changing because frequently these functions have been pushed down to the team level and managers have started focusing more on vision and leading.

One of the advantages of empowered project teams in a Matrix organization is that it helps to reduce layers of middle management thereby speeding execution.  Since all four functions of management are being handled within the team, the need for “managers” is reduced.  Only those that can make the shift to leader stand any chance of survival.

Clearly the employees of today are far more skilled than those of the past.  However, where has it gotten them?  In a world where so many jobs are being off-shored and companies are forced to continually reduce costs, many highly skilled professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to find employment.  Those that survive, experience an incredible amount of stress and all the negative effects thereof.

So, what do I think the future of management will be like?  I think that project teams leveraging the best practices in project management will continue to be the model of the future.  Like the special forces, these will be small, elite, empowered teams that will be able to execute faster than the company as a whole enabling competition at a global level.  However, those teams will be spread all over the world and virtual teams will become quite predominate.  Layers of middle management will continue to be reduced and those professionals with international experience will become a commodity.  Lean times do not make customers any less demanding and management must find a way to adapt.

Your path to business success.

Categories : Business Skills


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