I’m no armchair theorist. Here are some of the ways in which I help companies build tomorrow’s best practices today.

The Management Jam

An intensive, action-oriented program designed to help an organization kick start its management innovation efforts.

Building an organization that is fit for the future will require a large cadre of inspired management innovatorsindividuals who can envision and prototype bold new alternatives to the management status quo. This is the goal of the Management Jam, a 1- or 2-day training program that helps managers to first imagine and then design new and innovative approaches to creating strategy, allocating resources, harnessing talent, evaluating performance, building teams and exercising controlall with the goal of creating organizations that are endlessly adaptable, perpetually innovative and deeply engaging.

In my view, there are four critical steps to turning “ordinary” managers into inspired renegades, and the Jam is built around four corresponding modules:

1.  Challenge management dogma:

All of us are prisoners of precedent; all of us struggle to envision radical alternatives to the status quo. Most of us have grown up in and around organizations that fit a common template. Along the way we’ve inherited all sorts of management beliefs that constrain our thinking.  Most managers believe, for example, that freedom and discipline are mutually exclusive, that control must be exercised from above, that people will reflexively resist change, and that first-level associates are incapable of self-management.  In the Management Jam, my colleagues and I help leaders surface, examine and challenge their deeply embedded assumptions about how the work of management gets done in their organization. In doing so, we open up a “field of possibilities” in which new management approaches can take root and grow.

2.  Embrace new principles:

Today’s organizations face a daunting set of challenges that lie outside the “performance envelope” of “management as usual.” To meet these new challenges, organizations need more than new practices, they need to embrace new principles. Management 1.0 was built around the principles of standardization, specialization, control and predictability.  To build organizations that are adaptable and innovative at their core, we will need to borrow principles from systems that already are resilientlike the Internet, ecosystems, cities, and free markets. In the Management Jam, we help leaders identify the new principles they will need to be embedded in the managerial DNA of their organization

3.  Learn from the fringe:

The future—of art, music, fashion and management—is born on the fringe. That’s why you won’t uncover the future of management by benchmarking Fortune 500 companies.  In the Management Jam, I introduce participants to a wide range of positive deviants—progressive organizations that are already challenging the basic tenets of Management 1.0. On the fringe, one finds organizations where employees elect their leaders, where formal hierarchy has been abolished, where employees choose their work, and where strategy gets built bottom-up. By exploring these bleeding edge practices, one learns bureaucracy isn’t inevitable, and that you can build an organization of scale that is lithe, nimble and endlessly inventive.

4.  Prototype:

A top-level task force is seldom the best way to reinvent a company’s management model. Traditional approaches to improving management practices are too slow and incremental. What’s needed is a broad portfolio of bold, yet low-risk, management experiments. Companies regularly experiment with new products, web designs, and ad campaigns, so why not experiment with new management techniques? In the Management Jam, my colleagues and I show you how to design low-cost, time-compressed management experimentsand how to scale positive lessons across the organization.

The focus of the Management Jam can be tailored to the specific needs of a client organization.  Potential topics might include:  Unleashing entrepreneurship, removing barriers to innovation, raising engagement levels, accelerating growth, or improving the effectiveness of key management processes such as strategic planning and performance management.

In practice, the Management Jam is catalyst for change and a powerful tool for leadership development.  It is based on the premise that in most organizations the biggest impediment to superior performance is not the operating model or the business model but the management model. 

“Companies experiment with new products and services, why not with new management techniques?”

The Management Hackathon 

An online, facilitated process for crowd-solving your company’s toughest management challenges.

Tomorrow’s winners will be the companies that evolve their management practices faster than their competitorsin ways that help them overcome the debilitating limits of Management 1.0.  Nevertheless, retooling management for the 21st century will be a formidable task. In most organizations, strategic planning relies overmuch on the left-brain and too little on the right brain. The budgeting process funnels too much cash into legacy businesses while starving new initiatives. Performance management systems overweight short-term goals and underweight medium-term goals. Management structures concentrate too much authority at the top and give too little autonomy to those on the front lines.  Compensation systems over-reward the politically savvy and under-reward the risk-takers. Information systems focus to much on harvesting data for C-suite executives, and too little on empowering everyone in the organization with real-time business-relevant information.

Problem is, these core management processes are difficult to change. As deeply flawed as they are, they are still critical to current operations.  That’s why you can’t simply torpedo them.  What you can do is involve a broad cross-section of the organization in “hacking” the old management model—in ways that are simultaneously bold and prudent.

The Management Hackathon is an online, collaborative process for zeroing in on potentially toxic management practices, brainstorming alternatives, and launching low-risk experiments that can be run at any level within the organization. One recent hackathon, run in partnership with the UK’s CIPD, brought together more than 1,700 leaders from around the world to reinvent the HR function.  The hackathon platform has also been deployed inside organizations to “crowdsolve” major strategic and cultural challenges.

Based upon a multi-stage process that is, by turns, divergent and convergent, the hackathon leverages the power of collaboration and volunteerism to rapidly develop and deploy breakthrough solutions to complex management challenges, such as revitalizing corporate values or embedding new organizational capabilities.

The Hackathon methodology is scalable—it can be used within a single business, function or geography, or across the entire enterprise. It represents the antithesis of a resource-heavy, top-down corporate change program. It is not “rolled out,” but “rolled-up.”  It based on the premise that in the future, the most successful change programs will be those that are “socially constructed.”

Like the Jam, the Hackathon can be tailored to the particular challenges of a client organization.  To read more about my approach to change, click here.

“The Hackathon represents the antithesis of a resource-heavy, top-down corporate change program.”

More about hackathons

An invitation to management renegades . . .

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