On Gary Hamel's 'The Future of Management' part 4 – Learning from Highly-adaptable Systems

futurelab default header

by: John Caddell

After lengthy case histories of some new-management examples (W.L. Gore, Whole Foods Market and Google), Hamel gets down to helping us imagine what the new management model might look like. In Chapter Eight of “The Future of Management ,” “Embracing New Principles,” he lays out models for highly-resilient, self-organizing systems, so that by example we could create some rules and practices for new corporate managment. The systems are:

Life – by its limitless diversity, life has adapted to every calamity and catastrophe that has befallen the earth in the last billion years or more. It’s instructive that most life “experiments” are failures–virtually all species become extinct , most mutations don’t survive. Yet the overall results are anything but a failure.

Markets – they rapidly incorporate information from buyers and sellers, and set prices without any ultimate authority. Investment abandons poor investments quickly to seek higher potential or lower risk, and there are numerous sources from which to raise money.

Democracy – gives each citizen a stake in his governance. By giving voices to many, dissent is prevalent. Which leads to slower, but sounder, decision-making. And, transparency of information is the rule–which tends to create a more egalitarian environment and one where citizens feel empowered to protest what they see as injustice or inequity (you should have seen the uproar when this news was published  in my local paper).

Faith – gives meaning to people’s everyday lives, and allows them to persevere through tragedy and heartbreak.

Cities – they reinvent themselves continuously by taking on the character of their inhabitants–usually a highly-diverse, creative, enterprising group–and providing variety and space for self-expression. By their layouts, they “increase the odds for serendipity” by allowing people from different viewpoints and areas of expertise to collide, dialogue and perhaps collaborate 6.

The question Hamel poses in this section is: are any of these traits found in your company? The answer will be, for the vast majority of us, no.

Corporate hierarchies don’t allow for many failures to find the one great success; they don’t move quickly to defund bad ideas, and are terrible at speculation; they aren’t democratic in the least; a higher mission or calling is rare (certainly a deeply-felt mission); they are laid out to reduce costs, not increase the environment to collaborate.

All of this points to the fact that (a) instituting such change will be difficult and (b) those who can do it will achieve outsized rewards, for imitating it will be a challenge.

Ending again with a quote:

Indeed, the more one learns about what it is that makes things adaptable, the more one is tempted to question the very foundations of modern management theory. After all, when compared to large companies, the most adaptable things on the planet are either under-managed or, Mon Dieu, un-managed.

Original Post: http://shoptalkmarketing.blogspot.com/2007/10/on-gary-hamels-future-of-management_18.html