Mintzberg: time to think of organizations as communities of cooperation

Our obsession with leadership, of any kind, causes us to build organisations that are utterly dependent on individual initiative. We do not allow them to function as communities. So when they fail, we blame the leader, and seek a better one. Like drug addicts, each time we need a bigger hit.

Consider that ubiquitous organisation chart, with its silly boxes of “top”, and “middle”, and bottom managers. How come we never say “bottom managers”? This is no more than a distorted metaphor. It tells us that we are fixated on who has authority over what and whom. The painting may not be the pipe, but to most of us, the chart has become the organisation.

Isn’t it time to think of our organisations as communities of cooperation, and in so doing put leadership in its place: not gone, but alongside other important social processes.

[O]bsession with leadership is the cause of many of the world’s problems. [L]et us get rid of the cult of leadership, striking at least one blow at our increasing obsession with individuality. Not to create a new cult around distributed leadership, but to recognize that the very use of the word leadership tilts thinking toward the individual and away from the community. We don’t only need better leadership, we also need less leadership.

via FT.com.

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Inevitable strategy

Roger Martin illustrates the difference between Mintzberg‘s emergent strategy and deliberate strategy:

Every company has a strategy. Whether it ‘does strategy’ explicitly or not, the choices that it makes on a daily basis result in the company operating on some part of the playing field (i.e. making a where-to-play choice) and competing there in some fashion (i.e. making a how-to-win choice). It matters not a whit whether the industry is highly uncertain, every company competing in it has a strategy.

Without making an effort to ‘do strategy,’ though, a company runs the risk of its numerous daily choices having no coherence to them, of being contradictory across divisions and levels, and of amounting to very little of meaning. It doesn’t have to be so. But it continues to be so because these leaders don’t believe there is a better way.

Become more worldly, not more global

Henry Mintzberg and Karl Moore suggest that “managers should be urged to become more worldly, not more global.” I think it’s a relevant suggestion for all.

The Oxford Dictionary defines worldly as “experienced in life, sophisticated, practical.” The worldly person seeks out diversity as a way to enhance his understanding of other cultures while adding nuance and appreciation to his inherited background.

The global person, on the other hand, conforms to an emerging singular culture.

via Forbes.

Mintzberg: Who Will Fix the US Economy?

The place to start is America’s executive suites, which should be cleared of mercenaries in order to encourage real leadership. That is the easy part: get rid of the obscene compensation packages and watch the mercenaries disappear. People who care about building and sustaining decent enterprises – and who understand that doing so is a team exercise ­– can then take over. (…)

Public support should be shifted from protecting large established corporations to encouraging the growth of newer enterprises. And startups should be discouraged from rushing into the embrace of the stock market’s short-sighted analysts and many an established corporation should be encouraged to escape that embrace. At the same time, regulation and taxation should be used to rein in disruptive day trading and other exploitative speculation that crowds out sustainable investment and disrupts regular business activities.

Above all, what the American economy needs now are managers who know and care about their businesses. Armies of MBAs who have been trained to manage everything in general but nothing in particular are part of the problem, not the solution.

via Project Syndicate.

Mintzberg’s “Managing” is Britain’s best management book

Every year Britain’s Chartered Management Institute awards a Management Book of the Year and this year’s choice is Managing by McGill University‘s Henry Mintzberg.

Following the announcement Mintzberg said “I would be honoured by this lovely prize in any event. But it has special meaning for me because, of all the places I go in this world, none matches the U.K. for intellectual stimulation. The Brits combine curiosity and empathy with wonderful individuality, by which I mean, not acting for oneself, but thinking for oneself. So to be honoured in this way in the U.K. is especially delightful.

 

Mintzberg’s latest on managing

Wisdom (and book promotion) from Mintzberg via WSJ:

Basically, managing is about influencing action. Managing is about helping organizations and units to get things done, which means action.

One step removed, [managers] manage people. Managers deal with people who take the action.

And two steps removed from that, managers manage information to drive people to take action—through budgets and objectives and delegating tasks and designing organization structure and all those sorts of things.

Today I think we have much too much managing through information—what I call “deeming.” People sit in their offices and think they’re very clever because they deem that you will increase sales by 10%, or out the door you go. Well, I can do that. My granddaughter could do that; she’s four. It doesn’t take genius to say: Increase sales or out you go.

Management provocations

at the Management Lab‘s conference on “Inventing the Future of Management“:

  • Tim Brown, IDEO: Creative people aren’t interested in management.
  • Hal Varian, Google: ‘Statistician’ is the sexy job of the 21st century.
  • Henry Mitzberg, McGill: We are not living in time of great change. Companies will not save the world.
  • Eric Abrahamson, Columbia: Organizations are over-organized.
  • Yves Doz, INSEAD: The danger is to think that what’s new is exciting and good, while what’s old is bad and tired.
  • Keith Sawyer, Washington University: People are deeply uncomfortable with uncertainty.
  • James Surowiecki, The New Yorker: The centralization of decision-making is a conceptual error. Individuals are not better than the collective.
  • Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford: The language of economics is toxic to the practice of management.
  • Kevin Kelly, Wired : Productivity is for machines. If you can measure it, robots should do it.

(thanks)