How practical do you think it would be for rank-and-file employees
to make hiring decisions on job candidates for positions on their teams?
What would you expect employees to do if management let them democratically determine their benefits?
What would be the expected outcomes in a company that permits any employee to refuse any task set before him or her?
How much would a company that allows most of their workers to establish their own wages be exploited by employees gaming the system or thinking they’re worth more than they are?
How much would a company benefit from insisting that 20% of an employee’s time be spent doing whatever
the employee wants to do?
In his new book, The Future of Management, business guru Gary Hamel writes about companies where nontraditional management practices are the rule.
Whole Foods lets employees choose their teammates and lets employees determine their benefits packages. Gore-Tex allows all employees to say no to any task request. At Semco, management and supervisory employees determine their own wages. Google’s production staff members are required to devote 20% of their time to tasks of their own choosing.
A pillar of traditional management philosophy is that supervisory and nonmanagerial employees cannot be trusted to have the wisdom, will or ways to do what is best for a company.
But companies that Hamel holds out as exemplars of a different view of frontline employees are rendering whole libraries of business books obsolete. These companies demonstrate the efficacy of what James Surowiecki calls “the wisdom of crowds” in his recent book by that name.
As royal families discovered long ago, position does not confer special insight. We’ve seen several examples recently of esteemed CEOs making grievously damaging decisions, including CEOs at Merrill Lynch and Citicorp.
Traditional hierarchical command and control business organizations are organizational dinosaurs. In an age dominated by older populations that more aggressively assert their autonomy and the Internet, which gives ordinary people extraordinary power to exercise their autonomy, hierarchically operating structures are obsolete.
Nearly three decades ago Tom Peters and Bob Waterman shook up the business world with their out-of-the-park, bases loaded homerun book, In Search of Excellence. Then, a dozen years later, Michael Hammer and James Champy implied that searching for excellence along traditional paths was inadequate. The times call for “reengineering” the corporation, they said.
In 2001, Jim Collins and company gave us Good to Great, one of the best selling business books of all time that was stunning with respect to the depth and breadth of research. The only problem is, despites its continuing success for its publishers, six of the 11 companies that were culled from the original 1,435 companies scrupulously examined, and that met Collins’ definition of greatness were already underperforming at the time we sent our manuscript for Firms of Endearment to our publishers in January 2006. We proposed in FoE that what made a company great should be redefined in view of the fact that six formerly “great” companies had fallen off Jim Collins’ pedestal.
The great companies of the 21st century might not fit Collin’s criteria for greatness, but many are leading the pack in share price performance, as well as in Gary Hamel’s mind as to what constitutes greatness in “the future of management.”
Hamel’s thinking will take you well outside the proverbial box. If you plan to still be toiling away in the world of business five years from now, you will be better prepared for “the future of you” by reading this remarkable treatise on business models that will become the standard in as little time as a decade.
In case you don't have plans to do anything particularly noteworthy come Nov. 29 & 30, you might not do better than to check out the Good and Green conference in Chicago on those days. There are some outstanding presenters as you will see when you stop in at www.goodandgreen.biz. Of course you'd get a chance to meet me because I'm doing the wrap up keynote on the 30th!