Dave Snowden has an interesting blog post today about management in which he, rightly, questions those who claim that organisations don't need management any more. He also re-asserts Tom Davenport's point that:
...the two extremes of anarchistic or chaotic self-organisation and micro-management of command and control are just that, extremes that rarely exist in reality for any length of time. In effect all management is complex, a system of constraints in which behaviour modifies the nature of the system itself over time. OK it would be good if managers stopped failing to manage outcomes and recognised that success is better achieved by managing constraints and connectivity with a view to coherence.
Sadly though, for me anyway, Dave falls at the last hurdle by re-asserting the origin of management as meneggiare, the ability to ride and train horses. I have never felt the need of a horseman and never needed any of my managers to actually tell me what to do. I needed them to give me reasons to do what i did, context within which to know how to do it well, and a willingness to take on some of the administrative activity and negotiation with the rest of the organisation that I needed but that would distract me from my work if I did it myself.
I have always said that networked ways of working are not bottom up in nature and are of as much interest to those in the middle and the top of current hierarchical structures. Everyone is a node in the network who has network power depending on the number of their connections and the perceived value of their input. In many ways this gives managers more ability to influence than they have ever had and may get them to give up some of the pretense of control.
What is interesting is considering different ways of "managing" businesses - almost certainly with different structures. certainly with different underlying assumptions of the role of managers and possibly even with sufficient re-definition of the role that current language becomes unproductive. Someone once described my role in the BBC as being that of an "intrapreneur" and someone else as an "animateur".
I am not suggesting that we move over wholesale to French management speak but that there is huge potential for a radical re-think of how stuff gets done in organisations, who is "responsible for it and how.