Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Management in the 21st Century

Management practices in the 21st Century 'Information Age' are changing! New techniques and approaches are replacing many traditional methods that worked well in the 'Industrial Age' of the 20th Century.

Early on in my career I decided I wanted to be a manager, even before I understood exactly what that meant. I have since spent a lifetime studying management and trying to become the best manager I could be – while primarily working in the healthcare, information, and technology sectors. The foundation for my understanding of management was laid back in the 1970's, when I formally studied and obtained a Masters Degree in Management. I then spent over 40 years of my career putting into practice what I learned.

Major Management Functions - POSDCRB
  • Planning,
  • Organizing,
  • Staffing,
  • Directing,
  • Controlling/Coordinating,
  • Reporting,
  • Budgeting.

A number of recently published books have captured the key findings about new management approaches and techniques that are gaining strength as we move deeper into the 'Information Age' in this 21st Century. The following are a selection of just a few of these books that I would recommend today's managers ought to consider reading:

Modern 21st Century Management Practices

The purpose of this article is to distill many of the best lessons learned about managing in the 21st Century that might prove useful to managers today. While the major management functions remain largely the same, many new management techniques and approaches have emerged as we move deeper into the 'Information Age'. So without further ado, here is a fairly concise list of advice and lessons learned that may complement some of the older, traditional management practices you may have have been taught before you first started out. Here we go!

  • Management processes still used in many industries and companies today were designed and developed over a century ago for the 'Industrial Age'.
  • Almost every industry or company today is information-driven to some extent, e.g. publishing, healthcare, government, finance, transportation, manufacturing, energy…
  • While traditional command and control management structures are still applicable to some organizations, most modern information-based companies rely on knowledge workers that thrive on freedom, collaboration, self-direction, experimentation, communications, sharing…
  • Culture, mission, vision, and strategy go hand-in-hand. They are key to the success of your organization over the long term.
    • Take the time to carefully capture and define the culture, mission, vision, principles and values of your organization – write it down!
    • Authenticity and honesty are key! People know when an organization's mission and vision statement are simply nice sounding 'bull shit' sound bites.
    • Continually communicate and reinforce the culture, mission, vision, and values to your management team and employees, as well as to your stockholders and customers.
  • Continuous innovation and quality improvement are key to the long-term survival of organizations today.
  • Maximizing short-term value should always take a back seat to a commitment to long-term plans for success.
  • Traditional hierarchical organizational structures may not be a good match for many information-based companies of today. They tend to restrict communication, collaboration, innovation and productivity.
  • Traditional office structures and layouts may not be a good match for many information-based companies of today. Again, they tend to restrict communication, innovation and productivity.
  • Stop listening exclusively to your Highest Paid Person's Opinion (HIPPO); start listening more to your smartest and most creative people.
  • Keep the organization as flat as possible, with many small to mid-size productive teams that have ready access to senior management.
  • Senior managers or leaders should be productive people that fully understand the business, e.g. technology, healthcare, military, transportation...
  • Focus on building an 'open' platform that will allow you to grow quickly and globally, e.g. Internet, Linus, Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, …
  • Many mature organizations with roots in the 20th Century tend to be hierarchical, 'closed' systems versus today's more 'open', flexible and 'flat' organizations.
  • Many mature organizations tend to prioritize short-term revenue goals over creative new solutions and long-term growth.
  • Collaboration, Open Solution, and Innovation (COSI) are key management strategies for success in today's global knowledge-based economy.
    • 'Open' systems allow one to harness the power of thousands of external partners.
    • Defaulting to 'Open' tends to foster increased innovation, while also lowering costs.
[Collaboration + 'Open' Solutions = Innovation]
  • Recruiting and staffing for today's knowledge-based companies is even more important for success than in the past. Great care should be paid to every new hire. People truly are your organization's most valuable asset.
  • Direction and Decision-Making remain key management functions. The primary difference today is that major decisions are often made by consensus after examining a wealth of hard data and information versus the more traditional authoritarian approach of the past.
  • Knowledge-based companies in this 'Information Age' tend to favor the Consensus & Coordination versus Command & Control approach.
  • Reporting remains a key management function to track progress towards major goals and objectives. The primary difference today is that reports must be primarily based on hard data and shared with as wide an audience as possible – both up, down, and across the organization.
  • Budgeting and financial management are key management functions. Approximately 80% of your finances should be focused on supporting and enhancing your core business, while at least 20% should be spent on exploring and developing new products and services for future growth.
  • Again, in today's knowledge-based 'Information Age' organizations, communications up, down, and across the organization is key. Default to 'open' – sharing all you can with others.

Major Resources to be Managed – 4M'S & I

  • Manpower,
  • Money,
  • Machines,
  • Materials,
  • Space,
  • Information.

Other Management Suggestions

The following are some last observations and thoughts for today's managers to seriously consider:

  • 'Our people are our most important asset' is a cliché that is often tossed around loosely by many organizations that don't really believe what they say. To them, people are simply 'human resources' to be hired and replaced without any real concern. Employees are brighter than you think and will soon see right through this lie.
  • All key knowledge-based employees should be encouraged and allowed to spend 20% of their time at work reading, studying, or working on new innovations. This will ultimately benefit the organization in many ways.
  • Day-to-day decision-making should be distributed downward, leaving only the major decisions to be made by senior management. Decisions then need to be communicated up, down, and across the organization as widely as possible.
  • Intelligence, creativity, passion, character, integrity, honesty, self-learners, … these are the qualities you want to look for when hiring and retaining staff. Be wary of employees who are 'bullies', hostile, manipulative, dishonest, loners, …
  • Many traditional communication techniques still apply in today's environment of email, instant messaging, televideo,… Management by walking around and face-to-face conversations remain extremely valuable techniques.

If you have other key observations and recommendation on how to better manage organizations in the 21st Century 'Information Age', please feel free to share them with our readers.

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