UK: Turbulent times for British management. (2 of 2)

UK: Turbulent times for British management. (2 of 2) - And so to the flat organisation - not just in BP, and not just in industry and commerce. As our citizens become used to choice and competitive supply in the marketplace, they come to insist on simila

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

And so to the flat organisation - not just in BP, and not just in industry and commerce. As our citizens become used to choice and competitive supply in the marketplace, they come to insist on similar performance from government and public service too. The flat organisation is for all.

In the flat organisation, top leaders become impresarios. Their task is to conceive the performance as a whole. They encourage individual artists to give of their creative energy within a vector that delivers the corporate goals. So the power to conceive visions and to communicate to them is a new and crucial leadership skill: stimulating and capturing personal enthusiasms. It is a humane skill, a power to understand ideas in the round, balancing specialist considerations against the need to act fast to beat competition.

So what sort of a person is the manager for the age of surprise? Not the introvert concerned with the corporate way of doing things, I suspect. The outward aspect and concern for the customer's circumstances will dominate. Rather than the specialist, secure in his professional aptitude, the flat organisation is people with integrators bringing together the relevant skills to produce goods and services that customers value.

Businesses that cannot generate men and women with those skills of general management will be constrained in their ability to respond to the new age. Whatever specialist skill each may start with, broader management education is crucial, both to the career of the individual and to the success of the organisation - management education that does not cease at 30 but continues career long.

What of the human raw material? When should education start for the competitive world? Here I suspect that well intentioned enthusiasm may get the wrong results. If we start too early in shaping young minds for a specific metier, we should not forget the immense changes during the length of our own careers. Who could have predicted in the 1950s the economic circumstances of today? And in urging early commitment to occupational training, let us not forget that in turbulent markets the ability to understand the other person's point of view is crucial.

Robots will replace the mechanical and routine tasks of yesterday's working man; in the new era the humane skills will come back into their own. In a Europe of 50 different and distinct cultures, simple nostrums taught in technical schools will not be enough. We must develop men and women of broad human sympathies to match their advanced professional and technical skills - capable of learning life long. That is the challenge facing us today. That is the challenge in managing turbulence.

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