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What’s next for management?

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What’s next for management?

Biggest risk is that as pandemic urgency ebbs, managers will return to their comfort zones

How have your managers changed how they manage in the last 12 months? You might find that those charged with executing change sometimes find changing their approaches the most difficult thing to do.

These are some of our most intelligent and most successful people. And past success can be a big part of the problem. They can find it hard to change approaches to get results in emerging conditions. It will be interesting to see if the adaptions they made during the Covid pandemic stick. This is something that should be on the radar of top leaders, business owners and managers themselves.

Even before Covid, we saw many radical changes. New business models and how we entertain ourselves are just two examples. Now we can expect many more changes, expedited by technology and changing social norms.

However, how much did management approaches change in the same period? Of course, it was management for the virtual world, but did the mindset and principles underlying their approach change? How many of our managers still think, “When I say ‘jump,’ you say, ‘how high?’” This is a highly problematic approach now that all our established assumptions about our businesses have been rocked.

How many managers and leaders who practised more compassionate, outward approaches during the pandemic still have that fundamental belief that they need to control rather than enable and empower their teams? I believe now is the perfect time to reimagine how we manage our people as we emerge from this crisis with a blank slate. However, there are some significant challenges.

The first challenge is that organisations, more so than people, like to shift back to the familiar ways of doing things. We may need to develop new products and services and innovations, but the systems (including our management approaches) have not always changed to make this happen. This is true across many businesses and is especially problematic in established businesses. 

Managers in these organisations are capable of adopting new and better ways of doing things. They do so in their personal lives without a problem. But the entrenched management culture paradoxically becomes a barrier to improvement when the managers do not change what they need to be doing. They can be too comfortable with the old models.

We can learn from startups. They throw out what is no longer working instantly. They never build up bureaucratic styles of management, which slow everything down through often unintentional control mechanisms. Their managers know their people will gravitate to add value and skills where they are needed most.

Larger companies have had this vitality managed out of them, creating inefficiencies and waste. I think that as we return to work, companies must be careful not to lose the flexible management lessons the crisis taught us. We cannot afford for our people to lose their voice and spirit of entrepreneurship.

If leaders want to get more out of their people, they need their managers to create a working environment of accountability. They need to manage in a way that grows resilience, passion and innovation. The way forward is not following a new management model but advancing a new idea of what management now means.

Managers should take stock of how they may be slowing down their people rather than increasing their contributions. Managers should examine every aspect of their job and evaluate if how they are managing is truly adding value. 

In Thailand, companies traditionally have a very hierarchical, controlled approach. People love managers who look after them. Managers now need to consider how they can make their people feel like owners of their work, rather than just supporters.

All great companies are great because they have managed to make employees feel like owners. I use the word “managed” intentionally here. Leaders may give inspiring speeches, but day-to-day management experience will make those speeches true. 

We need an evolution in how we manage and organise. Go back to the fundamentals and reimagine how we run organisations. We cannot say, “This will not work in my organisation or my culture”. We can see other companies like Haier or Michelin doing it. In the words of Gary Hamel, the management consultant and author of Humanocracy, we can’t unsee these successes. 

Some managers won’t make it, it is true. But most will. They will be more productive and happier when they can spend their time enabling success rather than telling adults to stick to the rules.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at [email protected] or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Talk to us about how SEAC can help your business during times of uncertainty at https://forms.gle/wf8upGdmwprxC6Ey9

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