Something has been bothering me for a while. I have noticed that organisations rarely consider “How we manage” when they are thinking about their strategy. If they do think about how we manage, it is not explicit. It is not management by design. I want to provoke some thoughts and explore the consequences and opportunity.
In this article I suggest there is not enough thought given to how we lead and manage our organisations and our people. It is also a piece of the strategy jigsaw that dramatically influences the performance of our people and our organisations. However, explicitly thinking about how we lead and manage is often completely omitted from strategy thinking. It is taken as read. It has become a habit.
The problem – the challenge….
When we think about strategy, the traditional pattern is:
- External world – what is happening? And where are we in it?
- What should be our strategy?
- How do we align the organisation?
- Now, how do we execute it, deliver it, and learn from it?
(I know… it is simplistic for a reason. Bear with me).
There is a catch. This traditional pattern omits thinking about a fundamental aspect of our organisations that affects performance. That aspect is: ‘How we choose to lead and manage our people and our organisations.’
How we design and choose to how we manage and how we lead…
Surely, choosing how we manage, is as important as what we manage and what we do. Therefore, ‘How we manage’ should also be an explicit choice: a decision alongside the strategy. Shouldn’t it?
In the diagram below, I have placed the design of how we lead and manage alongside the choice of strategy. (You may recognise it as a variant of my Strategic Learning Diagram). What i have here is two learning loops: one looking at the ‘strategy’ and the other looking at ‘how we manage’.
Notice that the choice of how we lead and manage, is the same size, and at the same level, as the choice of strategy. That is deliberate. I suggest that ‘the way we lead and manage’ should get as much thought and scrutiny as ‘the Strategy’?
I am suggesting we should be asking questions about how we manage our organisations, at the same time as we are thinking about our strategic options and their implications. This raises some questions:
- Has how we have been managing, been an impediment to how we have delivered our previous strategy?
- Will how we manage today, be an impediment to implementing our new strategy?
- Has the world of people and management changed? How is it changing. If we don’t change as well, will it affect whether we can deliver our strategy?
- What alternatives are there to the way we manage today?
Could, how we manage, be an element of our competitive position? Is there a better way?
1.3. How we manage is deeper than the management systems
A first thought might be about what we generally call the systems of management. This includes the strategy process, business planning, planning, budgeting, performance management (appraisals), programme management, project management, motivation, reporting lines, span of control, governance, etc. We could explore different ‘systems of management’ you could have.
I am not going to. I want to take a step back and go a lot deeper.
1.4. How we manage is based on how we think about people, work and organisations
I want to look deeper, because how we choose and design the way to lead and manage, depends on some things that are more fundamental. The choice and design should be based upon our underlying beliefs and even our philosophy and what we believe about people. It should also be based on how things in the world of work, business and organisations are changing, have changed and will continue to change.
Let me expand on these. For instance:
- How you think about people.
- What you believe about people.
- How we respect, treat and connect with people.
- What we believe about people’s motivations and needs.
- How you think about our organisations.
- Their nature, their purpose, and ethical stance
- The role and impact of our organisations on society, the environment and people.
- The role work plays in our lives. Why people come to work and what it fulfils.
- The nature of the connections (The social systems)
- amongst organisations and individuals,
- within organisations as a social system, and
- between organisations as a wider eco- and social-system.
- How you think about the nature of work, itself.
- How we work is changing and will continue to change. (The current trend is the impact of AI, but there are plenty of others influences.)
- The expectation of work
- How the expectation of work is changing.
- How we engage people in our organisations. (Not simply employ them)
- The relationship between individuals and organisations is changing.
These all have implications for how we think about how we should lead and manage our people, our organisations and our eco-systems.
Influencing the design of organisations, and our choices for how we lead and manage.
These influences affect how we design our organisations. That choice of our style and approach to leadership and management has many options. The choice, should be an explicit choice; a thoughtful, thought through, choice that should influence our approach to how we want to manage.
1.6. It is not just me….
Over the years, with my many various clients, I have long been intrigued by the variety of management styles and systems and thinking they have. More and more I am seeing a combination of changes in the environment of our organisations that supports this thinking. I am noticing in this piece being explicitly added to the strategy jigsaw in the more progressive strategy articles.
1.7. It is the deeper thinking that matters…
It is the deeper thinking that shapes the range of answers that emerge. The deeper thinking about what we believe about people, about work and about our organisations.
Have you been thinking along these lines as well? Has this provoked some thoughts? I hope so…. If you are looking for more ideas along these this line of thinking have a read of a few other supporting articles…