The very idea of ‘management’ itself is changing and many core concepts are becoming irrelevant. According to Henri Fayol (father of modern management methods) management is to forecast, to plan, to organize, to command, to coordinate and control activities of others.” It seems the what has not changed, but the how has. The way we work is changing and machines are slowly taking over making or at least influencing important management decisions for us.
The increased complexity in the interconnectivity of organizations and individuals to a point companies have almost given up on any org chart. It’s difficult to fully understand the sequence and system-level behavior, which makes the true risk exposure of any organization very difficult to assess. The increasing complexity of organizational design and increasing use of AI or cognitive computing in enterprise decision-making is escalating our challenges to a point where people will wonder what the new role of management is. The question becomes: Are we ready to hand over management to machines? Or will management become a human-algorithm combination – will we have “humarithmic” managers? Many still live in a world of offsite meetings, massive PowerPoint decks, and terabytes of quantitative data. But the reality is that most executives cannot articulate the value creation strategy, scope, and competitive differentiation of their company in a simple statement.
Many planning and meetings being considered management activities ended up just a lot of directionless effort and creating more confusion. But they are mistaken for progress and what management is supposed to do. Look around your organizations and add up all the time spend on calls, live meetings, power points and endless emails? None of those add value to keeping the company in focus. Perhaps it justify individual existence.
The core of different management theories needs to be questioned. Leaders are looking for something robust to grasp onto in order to prepare for a future of uncertainty and opportunity for strategic innovation. They also look for something that can prepare them for a new era – an era of infinite possibility, driven by purpose. Apple’s Tim Cook believes that a company’s higher purpose is not about “improving your own self. It should be about improving the lives of others as well.” He’s probably right.
What powers strategic innovation is not strategic planning – it’s applied strategic foresight. Our modern societies have evolved beyond just being market economies; today, we are organizational economies, and value creation depends on our organizational design and how we use technologies to connect. We are the actors and shapers advancing our economic progress by fostering this complex connectivity.
Strategic (foresight) management is more than just looking for the latest trend, creative forecasting, dreaming up new products, brand extensions, or technological inventions – it is a systematic way to engage the complexities of the future in order to inform the organizational design that determines the scope and scale of a business. Strategic foresight, along with design thinking, is used to unlock hidden value or create new value. Strategic foresight is not about being a better forecaster or a crystal ball reader, but rather about helping executives be less hidebound and stuck within older frames. The de facto design of management is not designed to ask managers to see the future or to think about disruption, but to deter managers from doing the wrong thing or taking risks beyond the calculated ones.
Managers create new value for both shareholders and society by answering to customers’ unmet needs or anticipating their future needs that are yet to exist – not by defending existing legacies and outdated business models. Managers also need to develop new approaches for strategy planning without discriminating between the present and future or treating them as two separate worlds. It is critical for them to link the two and to create a path to that future. With all that in mind, we need to ensure we are not being consumed with the operating challenges of today, leading us to fail in applying strategic foresight to create the future. Perhaps it is time to unfollow those dead theorists.
The full article will appear in the next issue of MISC Magazine, available January 2017.