The Future of Management

One of the treats for attendees of the Emerson Exchange conference is to listen to a Dave Beckmann presentation. Dave retired from his Senior VP of Marketing role with Emerson Process Management a few years ago and is now an associate pastor at his church in Marshalltown, Iowa. Dave is and has always been a dynamic presenter with thought-provoking ideas.

He gave a “Meet the Experts” talk, The Future of Management at this year’s conference. I didn’t have a chance to catch it live since I was also presenting at the time, but a colleague was kind enough to send me his notes.

A key message I took away from the notes was that the management structure that produced much of the success and wealth created in the 20th century has nearly reached the end of its effectiveness. It’s due for an overhaul from the bottom up to enable it to thrive in the new order where creativity and passion are keys to success. The hierarchical structures need to restructure toward open, flexible, flat organizations that are distributed and creatively driven.

Dave noted that this isn’t an easy transition and that there are numerous challenges–whiplash of economy, technological disruptions, global competitors, financially powerful customers, impatient shareholders, fractured markets, and idealistic employees who strive for significance over pay (want to work for someone who has a vision to change the world for the better).

He shared that the culture of transformation begins with processes to seek creative input from all levels. Next, it’s important to get rid of self-perpetuating bureaucracies. Leveraging new technologies helps to enhance collaboration and delegate responsibility. Key to this transformation is the management model. Where the focus has been on manufacturing excellence (operational excellence), it needs to shift to a focus on “design expertise”. The issue with manufacturing excellence is that it is easily copied, and outsourcing of functions to third parties provides an easy migration path of these processes to competitors.

Product and service innovations are also becoming more quickly copied. Another source of differentiation, marketing strategies, is also more easily copied. Dave believes that management innovation is the most important value on which organizations can differentiate and defend this differentiation. Successful companies will measure and reward passion, creativity, innovation, and intellect, over more traditional values such as diligence and obedience. The goal of management will be to get more out of people by providing them the appropriate collaborative tools, incentives, and working conditions to achieve together what cannot be achieved individually.

He closed his thought-provoking presentation by sharing examples of companies on the forefront of this shift. These examples included Whole Foods Market, Gore Industries, Cisco, and Google. Some common threads were autonomy and authority moved to lower levels, reduction in organizational hierarchies, and incentives favoring innovation and the value it creates.

It sounds like I missed a fascinating talk and hope that these notes gave you a flavor. Hopefully Dave will be back for next year’s Emerson Exchange in Nashville so that both you and I can catch him live.

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Posted Friday, October 22nd, 2010 under Communities, Emerson Exchange.

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