I am old enough to remember plenty of management fads which claimed to be elixirs for all the ills of organizing.
I probably remember “TQM” (Total Quality Management) best of all, because of its vast popularity despite it being total nonsense. Indeed, within just a few years, “time to market” had relegated “quality” to the back seat. And if you think quality is still a driving force, take a flight or call a mobile service provider!
I smell a new TQM skunk! In social media as well as academic journals, there is a lot of vibe about the lessening prominence of leadership as well as the need to focus on enhancing self-management for both the sophisticated nerd and the average Joe.
I have worked with many organizations which put a high premium on leaderless and self-management. Without an exception, they all “outgrew” this or died from decision paralysis and astounding mediocrity.
This short post will provide my perspective on this new religion-de-jour!
1) Leaderlessness and self-management have a manipulative basis.
- Empowered by information technology yet bogged down by ERPs and mistrust, it may be sexy to espouse the value of self – management, but it is cunning to an extreme. It certainly does create someone to blame when the system does not work too well.
- Power is concentrated in the hands of the ruling class, the tycoons, the powers that be or whatever. A call to “leaderlessness” and self-management sounds to me a general telling his front line troops to “develop the strategy and battle plan”, and then shooting them in the back for being cowards.
2. Self Management in the ERP hell.
In many organizations, ERP has replaced common sense and initiative, and serving the process is so dominant that there is almost no room for either good leadership or self-management. So let’s put the blame where it lies, and not promote the false messiah of self management.
People need leaders to admire and hate. I see this as a self-obvious truth. Am I too old? Out of touch? Or is someone peddling a new fad?
As the world of work became so complex and high speed, integration between disciplines and perspectives becomes absolutely critical. This integration does not happen by itself, because of ego, power games and bandwidth issues. Leaders drive integration by choosing the right people and leading/managing them properly.
So yes, I do see leaderlessness, holacracy and over dosing on self management as a new fad and in many cases, pure crap, misleading, manipulative and/or irrelevant.
But it sure is going to be lucrative.
And an afterthought- Organizations and people need leaders; employees, equipped with an end to end perspective of what’s going on , must work with their peers to resolves issues without undue escalation.