“Managerial innovation: let’s get out of this automatic pilot logic”
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Our companies are of course “steered” by management and executives, who support the process. But not only ! Should we remember that, for many of the piloting axioms and the tools they underpin, we still rely today on the theories of the iconoclasts of the late 19th century, who invented the rules and conventions of a “modern” management… for the time!
Have we really reinvented these rules since then? Their principles invisibly govern the way our companies allocate resources, establish budgets, distribute power, compensate employees and make decisions.
Let’s talk a little about innovation, an essential credo of our organizations. We innovate in the field of processes, products and services. We even talk about strategic innovation. But what about managerial innovation?
Let us recall that, among the iconoclasts, Max Weber, a contemporary of Taylor, proposed to us as a universal social model “a purely bureaucratic administrative organization” … “From a technical point of view, (alone) capable of reaching the highest degree of efficiency (…) the most rational way to exercise the necessary control over human beings ”: division of labor, organization by shift, pyramid structure, selection on the basis of technical skills and intellectual training, strict rules and controls on the job… The rules were proposed as impersonal and uniformly applied, pledges of the global order.
What have we invented since? Do these notions seem to you borrowed from the end of the 19th century… or from our current organizations? Have we become archbishops who ignore each other? Guardians of the temple of the then iconoclasts? The latter were revolutionary for their time. Have we become the curators of old innovative theories?
Our principles of control and management make us myopic: we no longer think we can invent. And by the way when would we do it? Everything is organized to link together (literally and figuratively). However, only managerial innovation would guarantee a competitive advantage that is sustainable and difficult to duplicate! And don’t expect those who approved and rolled out the model to germinate what could threaten it. What then will we do with the young “heretics” who expect something else?
Perhaps our real “innovation” since the 1980s has been to amplify certain contradictions of these tired and anachronistic models:
Ask local management to promote innovation, while requiring it to apply ancestral methods;
Always exercise more control while promoting autonomy and creativity;
Achieve results without fail… while always being more human and empathetic towards the teams;
Suggest leaving the framework, not forgetting to provide all preformatted, standardized and “essential” reports;
And, above all, to be “1st all”: 1st HR Manager, 1st financial, 1st leader, 1st salesperson, 1st manager… but simultaneously.
It is very similar to the game of “who loses loses”!
Our first suggestion would be simple: let’s get out of this automatic pilot logic; let’s get out of the industrial triptych “Prescribe – Control – Motivate” which today finds so little echo in the field.
This is a bit of a crazy gamble and supposes having previously faced some dark forces:
Force 1 – “Why change? “. It’s true: what use is it in being the first to innovate in high-risk and high-exposure practices? You would have to be crazy… And yet, that’s what you demand from teams all the time…
Force 2 – “It’s unrealistic now! “. Of course, the context is never the right one, which would assume that the change is always for tomorrow or for others. And yet, it is in difficult times that we predict the future. Isn’t it in times of crisis that we can afford to have prohibited ideas in normal times?
Force 3 – “it worked so far”. Yes, but at what price ! If Episode I allowed you to see all the stimuli that are already knocking on our doors, how can we imagine that this could last identically for a long time?
Force 4 – “No one will accept the impacts! “. Perhaps ! The potential loss of control, even of power, will certainly have an impact, but can you imagine that your company’s management system remains the same? These impacts, which will only be transitory, are they not, ultimately, the price to pay?
An “inevitable evolution”
But what are we talking about?
From this ineluctable evolution which makes us go through a sensitive managerial hybridization:
In a hierarchical mode, inherited from the industrial era. The manager distributes and controls. He masters. He evaluates with “full knowledge of the facts”.
In a project mode, for about thirty years. The manager allocates resources. It evaluates the contributions, without necessarily having defined them. He takes the opinions of others.
To finally land today at a management network. And there, danger: the manager is no longer central! By nature, the capacity to convince must replace the injunction. Relationship management is paramount. Confidence comes first. The logics of networks, informal by nature, are based on the principle of autonomy
In conclusion, we would like to stress what seems most important to us in terms of managerial innovation:
1st innovation: accept the fundamental questioning of the current operating methods of our management systems by breaking the “automatic pilot” mode.
2nd innovation: set real priorities for transformation at managerial level, which ideally would be supported by the Management.
3rd innovation: change habits by breaking codes.
4th innovation: accept that the principles of innovation management also apply to the management system, including the acceptance of taking risks!
5th innovation: the right to make mistakes must exist. Changing your DNA necessarily means admitting that you could be wrong. Shaking up your organization means forcing experimentation so that everyone can appropriate these new paradigms.
It may seem obvious, but, given the scale of the challenge, it is important to take a stand… before sprinkling new training actions all over the managerial body, which already has so much to digest.
Pascal Nicaud is Partner in the field of HR & Management consulting. For 25 years, he has specialized in the performance of the HR function and the management of human capital. A graduate of ESIEA, his career is based on innovation, entrepreneurship and management (CEGOS, Atos Consulting, founder of Lumens Consultants, today Solucom). He notably piloted the studies of CEGOS on the HR Function. His contacts are the CEOs or HRDs of the companies he supports, from the definition of HR policies to their implementation.
Karim Cherif is Senior Manager in the field of HR consulting. For more than 10 years, he has worked with HRDs both on the organization of the Function (missions, services and efficiency) and on supporting transformations. A graduate of Télécom SudParis, his career has taken place within the following companies: IBM Business Consulting, Atos Consulting, Lumens Consultants, today Solucom. He teaches in the HR major of NEOMA Business School.
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