The Four Gears of Future Proof Management

The nervous system and the body are not one and the same. Management and organization are not one and the same. However I often start by analysing how to change management in an organization before looking at the organization as a whole. Management is the art of getting things done via others. By looking at it first, it gives a simple and concrete start for change to create future proof organisation. So here is my copy/adapt/paste take on what is future proof management and its 4 gears.

What is management?

Several authors inspire me when working on future proof organizations (FPO).  Julian Birkinshaw, professor at the London Business School, is one of them. I met Julian during a fantastic assignment for a large corporation in the Energy sector. Justin has written and researched extensively on how to re-invent management for the past 20 years. So most of this blog post is a copy/adapt/paste of his work. Especially on the 4 gears defining management: 1- setting objectives 2- motivating people 3- Making decisions 4- Coordinating activities. Let’s see how future proof organizations behave differently on these 4 gears.

GEAR1: Purpose driven

In future proof organizations, a long-term purpose is the base for setting objectives. From this purpose, fundamental values are derived which govern the way the organisation behaves. Like riding a bike, the long-term goal is known and constant adaptation is made on day-to-day basis to capture the reality of an ever changing environment. See for instance the overall purpose of Patagonia: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”. Based on this purpose, Patagonia changed their sourcing of cotton to organic cotton to comply to “cause no necessary harm”. I wrote in previous blog posts how being a purpose driven organization can change fundamentally the way organizations are run based on core values.

GEAR2: Intrinsic motivation

The mechanism of  monetary rewards (i.e bonuses) is predominant nowadays in most organizations. In future proof organizations, motivation is based on what employees find challenging and stimulating to do. Furthermore, the way employees are evaluated is also changing. The yearly performance appraisal is replaced by a constant feedback mechanism focusing on skill and expertise development.

“We do not motivate him because he is motivated. When he is not, he is dead.”

Douglas McGregor

GEAR3:  Wearchy

Everyone, in future proof organizations, is empowered to make decisions. Instead of concentrating the power to a few individuals, everybody can decide based on clear role definitions and accountability. It creates a Wearchy replacing traditional hierarchical structures.  It doesn’t mean chaos here as the purpose, the values, roles and accountability allow for everyone to decide with meaning. We will talk back in future posts on turn-key systems like Holacracy. Quite disruptive and controversial in nature in terms on role definition and accountability definition but they have the merit to push the envelope of Wearchy very far in terms of experimentation.

GEAR4:  Emergence

In FPO, activities are coordinated to get bureaucracy to a minimum.  Trust and transparency are the two fundamental principles that allow procedures not to rule the workplace. Procedures “emerge” based on a collective need. And not to control a behaviour only witnessed from a minority. For instance, I always like this example mentioned by Julian of an experiment at Roche where declaration of expenses became self authorized (instead of pre and post approved). The only other condition was to make these declarations available to everyone to see. The team where this process was implemented mentioned that in general they felt more motivated by the change. And I bet ultimately expense declaration would decrease because of the transparency element.
Traditional Organizations
Future Proof Organizations
Setting Objectives
Profit driven
Purpose Driven
Motivating People
Making decisions
Coordinating activities

Future Proof Management

My take is that future proof management tend towards being purpose driven, focusing on intrinsic motivations of employees, allowing everyone to decide and letting rules emerged. But each organization is different hence the point of departure as well.  Consequently, to evolve towards this spectrum, each organization will have to reinvent its management in a different way, insisting on one gear or another. Changing ultimately the nervous system. The main question to you today is then where you are on these gears and what your next step towards evolution is.

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