The Role of a Manager Has to Change in 5 Key Ways

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Joseph Pistrui and Dimo Dimov for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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“First, let’s fire all the managers” said Gary Hamel almost seven years ago in Harvard Business Review. “Think of the countless hours that team leaders, department heads, and vice presidents devote to supervising the work of others.”

Today, we believe that the problem in most organizations isn’t simply that management is inefficient, it’s that the role and purpose of a “manager” haven’t kept pace with what’s needed.

For almost 100 years, management has been associated with the five basic functions outlined by management theorist Henri Fayol: planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling.

These have become the default dimensions of a manager. But they relate to pursuing a fixed target in a stable landscape. Take away the stability of the landscape, and one needs to start thinking about the fluidity of the target. This is what’s happening today, and managers must move away from the friendly confines of these five tasks. To help organizations meet today’s challenges, managers must move from:

Directive to instructive: When robots driven by artificial intelligence (AI) do more tasks like finish construction or help legal professionals more efficiently manage invoices, there will be no need for a supervisor to direct people doing such work. This is already happening in many industries — workers are being replaced with robots, especially for work that is more manual than mental, more repetitive than creative.

What will be needed from managers is to think differently about the future in order to shape the impact AI will have on their industry. This means spending more time exploring the implications of AI, helping others extend their own frontiers of knowledge, and learning through experimentation to develop new practices.

Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba Group in China, recently said, “Everything we teach should be different from machines. If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now we will be in trouble.” Ma is referring to education in the broadest sense, but his point is spot on. Learning, not knowledge, will power organizations into the future; and the central champion of learning should be the manager.

[Here is the first of five.]

Restrictive to expansive: Too many managers micromanage. They don’t delegate or let direct reports make decisions, and they needlessly monitor other people’s work. This tendency restricts employees’ ability to develop their thinking and decision making — exactly what is needed to help organizations remain competitive.

Managers today need to draw out everyone’s best thinking. This means encouraging people to learn about competitors old and new, and to think about the ways in which the marketplace is unfolding.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Joseph Pistrui is Professor of Entrepreneurial Management at IE Business School in Madrid. He also leads the global Nextsensing Project.

Dimo Dimov is Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Bath University in the UK, and co-founder of Kinetic Thinking.

 

 

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