Don’t look for leadership or management

Dave Pollard’s excellant post on “We don’t need leaders we need experimenters” got me thinking about my experiences from working as a management “cog” in the machinery of a rather large corporation. My role was to help the organisation with its new IT system and as such reported direct to the “leadership” – the management team. This sort of thing is huge in terms of numbers of people, locations, business risks, investment needed, and changes in behaviour required permanently. Perhaps you could say it mirrors the task at hand we all face: introducing major changes into an interconnected, technical and financial infrastructure, with widely accepted – rules of the game – that are outdated and inappropriate for the task in hand . If we didn’t change the IT system the whole company risked going under. Again this mirrors the situation we are in on the planet.

In fact, strong leadership was required in a sense. It HAD to be done, there was no going back, everyone had to help out, it had to be done right, too. Being fascinated by the whole subject of leadership, I watched how the management team communicated this message, expecting to see what qualities in them had got them to top management. A little disappointed, it all came out a bit lame, in the category of “necessary evil” .

But there is more. The management side. The skills required to organize such a transformation. I’m talking project management, aligning deliverables, employees, competencies, training, processes, deadlines, work packaging – all that good stuff that you expect top managers to be fully conversant with.

Nope. Not that either. Uphill struggle for us to translate this “technical side” of the work into by them actionable items. In fact, the excellent knowledge and skills being amassed by the implementation team – in terms of managing change – were being lost into the hands of outside consultants. If you are interested in this sort of thing, it’s all documented in a book “Running the Successful Hi-tech Project Office by Eduardo Miranda” (available Amazon).

Most of these management techniques – coming from the quality movement originally – stem back to rocket science. NASA has been one of the leaders in methodologies for bringing disparate organizations together to achieve a common “man on the moon” goal.

But, looking at it, this whole area has been rather ignored by many executive teams. The author of the book above (one of America’s experts) was fired from his job because the management team could not see any value add from his job.

So my own experience concurs – even the executive team were frozen in their development. The organization skills required to unravel this dysfunctional apparatus we call “business (sic) as usual” are available but elusive. Leadership is not going to happen. The apparatus is going to chug on until it grinds to a painful halt. Grass roots is all we have. That’s you and me. What can we do today?

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