What’s Next for Management? Where Do We Go From Here?

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Hierarchy is out. Individual performance can’t succeed if not aligned to team values and objectives. Leaders should be more humble. These are just a few takeaways from a recent round table on ‘Innovative Management’.

On September 19th, 2019, I had the honor and pleasure to participate in a round table on ‘Innovative Management’, organized by Montpellier Management, the business school of the University of Montpellier. The central topic? “When we talk about innovation, we very quickly refer to technology. Too often, we forget managerial innovation!”

Key takeaways from the round table:

    • More complexity and more speed are what’s driving the ongoing disruption of businesses, and this greatly impacts people.
    • You can’t make it in your own. Strong performance is a group effort. That’s why communication skills have become so important in business and why EQ (emotional intelligence) is trumping IQ.
    • You need to develop and operate according a mid- to long-term vision. This enables people and businesses to create sufficient space for decision-making. It also means moving away from the pressure of quarterly reporting, which will take some time before we can get there.

Management, in the meantime, continues to evolve:

    • Even small changes in management practices can be innovative. While many business books emphasize the importance of ‘breakthrough and disruptive innovation’, when it comes to managerial innovation, radical changes aren’t always needed. A series of small steps taken regularly is often the wiser approach. It’s better to take team members along a journey than to make them jump from one rollercoaster to the next.
    • Hierarchy is out. It’s better to emphasize what binds people within the organization, rather than to focus on hierarchy, roles or functional titles. As Françoise Nauton-Inglis, former General manager at Kaliop, said at the round table:  “Innovative management means harnessing the collective intelligence.” A good manager should give direction, not directions.
    • Individual performance can’t succeed if it is not aligned to team values and objectives. Good managers empower people to try out new things and shine, but managers also need to ensure alignment with the values and objectives of the team. Irène Georgescu, professor at Montpellier Management, approached this in an original manner: “Learning from your mistakes is less important than learning from your successes.”
    • Leaders should be more humble and above all drive values like openness and transparency. A direct and genuine management style fits best with this. I believe management has to be relevant and consistent. When it isn’t, it’s not management. And although this probably rings true to many of us, the numbers indicate we’re not there yet. 63% of leaders consider they walk this ‘new’ talk, but this is confirmed by only 29% of staff. As managers, we still need some practice!
    • It’s up to every manager – and every organization – to take up this challenge. Within Dell Technologies, for instance, diversity and inclusion are placed centrally. One way we do this, is through reversed mentoring, where younger colleagues become mentors to more senior (often managerial) colleagues. This will become ever more important with the newest generations. Isabelle Bories-Azeau of Montpellier Management considers that Millennials will likely shift the balance: “Millennials adhere to a more ‘nomadic career’ spirit.” If you want to bring on board and keep the young talent of today, then as a company, you will have to provide a work culture that meets their needs as well.

On a personal note: I was very pleased to be the only male invitee around the table. Having been an avid promoter of #jamaissanselles for years, it’s good to see this is panning out. In a way, it’s a shame this fact still needs to be pointed out in 2019. Let’s all continue to promote #never_without_her (plural)!

 

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