Creative Leadership

Managing Your Organization in a Digital Age

There’s been a lot of talk lately about changing management styles in the digital age.  In a past era, most companies were involved in the making of “stuff” – products and things.  Today, a growing number of companies are involved in the production and management of “information.”  So does the classic top down leadership style continue to work?  In the new book “Mobilizing Minds,” the authors give some time to the issue.

They believe a key reason for the failure of businesses today is how they’re organized in an age of information.  Most companies continue to be divided up by departments – research and development, manufacturing, production, sales, distribution, etc… but with information, the breakdown isn’t always that clear or similar.  In an idea economy, perhaps it’s time to re-think how we’re set up.

Some of my personal thinking is along the lines of smaller creative teams.  I consult with companies who still get 20 people around a table to brainstorm. But Jeff Bezos at Amazon says you shouldn’t have more people in a brainstorming session that could be fed by a couple of pizzas.  Any bigger group gets unwieldy and unproductive.  As an example, for years, advertising agencies have teamed up an account executive, artist, and writer under the leadership of a creative director to handle a single client.  

In an upcoming book to be published in the fall, “The Future of Management” the author takes a look at Google to see how this dominating company has changed attitudes toward management and leadership.  He looks at Google’s quirky perks like top-flight chefs in the cafeteria and free massages, but he also looks at their attitude toward radical decentralization, smaller, self-managing teams, trying out new products before making them widely available, and more.

The point is, we’ve responded to the digital age in other ways – we use e-mail, cell phones, the web, and more, and yet we’re still managing our organizations as if we were manufacturing widgets.  There’s still plenty of voices that say the widget style still works – that a strong leader still is necessary to say “This is what we’re doing” and then have a staff of employees to get it done.

But I think it’s worth looking at – not just in companies, but in non-profit and religious organizations as well.  How could you more effectively manage your organization, company, or church in the digital age?  I would encourage you to re-think how you work and how you lead.  Changing the leadership, team, and employee dynamic to fit better within a radically changed web-centric workplace might be the most important thing you can do right now.

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