Charles Green wrote a few years ago that management is still fighting the industrial revolution:
Ideas lead technology. Technology leads organizations. Organizations lead institutions. Then ideology brings up the rear, lagging all the rest—that’s when things really get set in concrete.
So basically, ideas are enabled by new technology around which new organizations are created. Only then do new institutions get built in order to support the new dominant ideology.
So what does the current set of pillars that informs management look like?
The industrial era was based on the notion of standardization and best practices. Factories and mass production enabled corporations, like General Motors, from which business schools such as MIT’s Sloan School of Management (Alfred Sloan was president & CEO of GM) were created to develop managers trained in some variation of the principles of scientific management. Here is an excerpt from F.W. Taylor’s Principles of Scientific Management (1911):
It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.
The network era is starting to take shape and some of the pillars are getting set in place, while others are in the making and not yet guaranteed to be part of the mix. Ideas like wirearchy and open business have been taken up in conjunction with new internet technologies, especially social media. There are experiments with new organizations, like B Corporations that have social and environmental components, or peer to peer production. It’s not obvious what the new institutions will look like, but we are seeing frenzied action in the educational sector as new and old players vie for dominance.
Perhaps new institutions will look like Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC’s). Perhaps not. But before a dominant ideology emerges we will see much more experimentation during this shift period. Will the dominant ideology be more like the “unassailable techno-humanitarian” TED Talks, or perhaps have the grassroots qualities of Shareable? My initial stab at a new ideology is a Taylorist mash-up: The principles of Connected Management:
It is only through innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions, and willing cooperation that more productive work can be assured. And the duty of being transparent in our work and sharing our knowledge rests with all workers.
However, if history is to be repeated, things will only stabilize after the new dominant ideology sets in place. Meanwhile, we will continue to live in very interesting times.