Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Management in the 21st Century

Management practices in the 21st Century 'Information Age' are changing! New techniques and approaches are replacing many traditional methods that worked well in the 'Industrial Age' of the 20th Century.

Early on in my career I decided I wanted to be a manager, even before I understood exactly what that meant. I have since spent a lifetime studying management and trying to become the best manager I could be – while primarily working in the healthcare, information, and technology sectors. The foundation for my understanding of management was laid back in the 1970's, when I formally studied and obtained a Masters Degree in Management. I then spent over 40 years of my career putting into practice what I learned.

Major Management Functions - POSDCRB
  • Planning,
  • Organizing,
  • Staffing,
  • Directing,
  • Controlling/Coordinating,
  • Reporting,
  • Budgeting.

A number of recently published books have captured the key findings about new management approaches and techniques that are gaining strength as we move deeper into the 'Information Age' in this 21st Century. The following are a selection of just a few of these books that I would recommend today's managers ought to consider reading:

Modern 21st Century Management Practices
The purpose of this article is to distill many of the best lessons learned about managing in the 21st Century that might prove useful to managers today. While the major management functions remain largely the same, many new management techniques and approaches have emerged as we move deeper into the 'Information Age'. So without further ado, here is a fairly concise list of advice and lessons learned that may complement some of the older, traditional management practices you may have have been taught before you first started out. Here we go!
  • Management processes still used in many industries and companies today were designed and developed over a century ago for the 'Industrial Age'.
  • Almost every industry or company today is information-driven to some extent, e.g. publishing, healthcare, government, finance, transportation, manufacturing, energy…
  • While traditional command and control management structures are still applicable to some organizations, most modern information-based companies rely on knowledge workers that thrive on freedom, collaboration, self-direction, experimentation, communications, sharing…
  • Culture, mission, vision, and strategy go hand-in-hand. They are key to the success of your organization over the long term.
    • Take the time to carefully capture and define the culture, mission, vision, principles and values of your organization – write it down!
    • Authenticity and honesty are key! People know when an organization's mission and vision statement are simply nice sounding 'bull shit' sound bites.
    • Continually communicate and reinforce the culture, mission, vision, and values to your management team and employees, as well as to your stockholders and customers.
  • Continuous innovation and quality improvement are key to the long-term survival of organizations today.
  • Maximizing short-term value should always take a back seat to a commitment to long-term plans for success.
  • Traditional hierarchical organizational structures may not be a good match for many information-based companies of today. They tend to restrict communication, collaboration, innovation and productivity.
  • Traditional office structures and layouts may not be a good match for many information-based companies of today. Again, they tend to restrict communication, innovation and productivity.
  • Stop listening exclusively to your Highest Paid Person's Opinion (HIPPO); start listening more to your smartest and most creative people.
  • Keep the organization as flat as possible, with many small to mid-size productive teams that have ready access to senior management.
  • Senior managers or leaders should be productive people that fully understand the business, e.g. technology, healthcare, military, transportation...
  • Focus on building an 'open' platform that will allow you to grow quickly and globally, e.g. Internet, Linus, Facebook, Google, Twitter, YouTube, …
  • Many mature organizations with roots in the 20th Century tend to be hierarchical, 'closed' systems versus today's more 'open', flexible and 'flat' organizations.
  • Many mature organizations tend to prioritize short-term revenue goals over creative new solutions and long-term growth.
  • Collaboration, Open Solution, and Innovation (COSI) are key management strategies for success in today's global knowledge-based economy.
    • 'Open' systems allow one to harness the power of thousands of external partners.
    • Defaulting to 'Open' tends to foster increased innovation, while also lowering costs.
[Collaboration + 'Open' Solutions = Innovation]
  • Recruiting and staffing for today's knowledge-based companies is even more important for success than in the past. Great care should be paid to every new hire. People truly are your organization's most valuable asset.
  • Direction and Decision-Making remain key management functions. The primary difference today is that major decisions are often made by consensus after examining a wealth of hard data and information versus the more traditional authoritarian approach of the past.
  • Knowledge-based companies in this 'Information Age' tend to favor the Consensus & Coordination versus Command & Control approach.
  • Reporting remains a key management function to track progress towards major goals and objectives. The primary difference today is that reports must be primarily based on hard data and shared with as wide an audience as possible – both up, down, and across the organization.
  • Budgeting and financial management are key management functions. Approximately 80% of your finances should be focused on supporting and enhancing your core business, while at least 20% should be spent on exploring and developing new products and services for future growth.
  • Again, in today's knowledge-based 'Information Age' organizations, communications up, down, and across the organization is key. Default to 'open' – sharing all you can with others.

Major Resources to be Managed – 4M'S & I
  • Manpower,
  • Money,
  • Machines,
  • Materials,
  • Space,
  • Information.

Other Management Suggestions

The following are some last observations and thoughts for today's managers to seriously consider:
  • 'Our people are our most important asset' is a cliché that is often tossed around loosely by many organizations that don't really believe what they say. To them, people are simply 'human resources' to be hired and replaced without any real concern. Employees are brighter than you think and will soon see right through this lie.
  • All key knowledge-based employees should be encouraged and allowed to spend 20% of their time at work reading, studying, or working on new innovations. This will ultimately benefit the organization in many ways.
  • Day-to-day decision-making should be distributed downward, leaving only the major decisions to be made by senior management. Decisions then need to be communicated up, down, and across the organization as widely as possible.
  • Intelligence, creativity, passion, character, integrity, honesty, self-learners, … these are the qualities you want to look for when hiring and retaining staff. Be wary of employees who are 'bullies', hostile, manipulative, dishonest, loners, …
  • Many traditional communication techniques still apply in today's environment of email, instant messaging, televideo,… Management by walking around and face-to-face conversations remain extremely valuable techniques.

Monday, April 18, 2016

What Will Life Be Like In 2050

What will life be like for our children and grandchildren by 2050, as we continue our transition from a Type 0 into a Type 1 Civilization.

A Type 0 Civilization extracts its energy, information, raw-materials from crude organic-based sources (e.g. wood/fossil fuel); information is communicated by books, newspapers, oral tradition; natural and man-made disasters coupled with societal conflicts create extreme risk of extinction; it's capable of orbital spaceflight; limited medical and technological advancement; failure to improve social and environmental conditions often lead to their own extinction.

A Type I Civilization extracts its energy and raw-materials from fusion power, hydrogen, solar, and other renewable resources; able to utilize and store energy available from its neighboring star, i.e. the sun; capable of inter-planetary spaceflight, colonization, and communication within its solar system; mega-scale global engineering and trade; regional and world governments; digital access to all known information and knowledge; achieves medical and technological singularity; still vulnerable to possible extinction.

My grandparents grew up during the final transition from the 'Agriculture Age' into the 'Industrial Age' back in the early 1900's. They were there at the start-up of the automobile industry, the beginning of aviation, the introduction of home appliances like the washing machine and refrigerators. Long distance travel was largely by steam ships or locomotives. They were there when electricity and telephones were first introduced. My parents got to see these innovative new products and industries mature. They got to travel by jet airplanes and were there when black & white televisions were invented, when color TV sets came into being, and even saw the emergence of computer technology. They were there at the start of the 'Space Age' and when the first man walked on the moon.

I grew up in the 1960's and lived and worked during the transition from the 'Industrial Age' into the 'Information Age' of the 21st Century. I was there to see the startup and rapid growth of the information technology (IT) industry, the transition from analog to digital communication networks, the birth of the Internet and world wide web (WWW), the emergence of regional and global governing entities, the start of inter-planetary flight, the commercialization of space travel, the emergence of mobile, wearable and implantable IT systems, the mapping of the human genome and the birth of regenerative medicine, in addition to the development and use of artificial intelligence, drone technology, laser beams, 3D printing, virtual reality, and so many other advancements rapidly leading up to the achievement of medical and technological singularity.

So try and imagine what advancements and massive changes our children and grandchildren will see and experience by 2050 and beyond. For example, will they witness:
  • Rapid growth in predictive and regenerative medicine leading ultimately to the end of disease and death as we know it;
  • Achievement of medical and technological singularity, leading to the transition of humans from our existing life forms into cyborg or android bodies;
  • Development of high-speed hyperloop transnational transportation systems on Earth;
  • Development, deployment, and use of next generation inter-planetary transportation systems;
  • Establishment of initial colonies on nearby planets within our solar system, i.e. Mars;
  • Development and widespread use of 3D manufacturing and teleportation technologies;
  • Reduction in Earth's population to more manageable levels, e.g. 5-6 billion people.
  • Development and deployment of telepathic methods of communications between people;
  • Free and 'open access' to all the world's knowledge by human beings as needed;
  • Exponential growth of innovative technologies and solutions to facilitate continued advancement of our civilization in order to transition from a Type I into a Type II Civilization in the 22nd Century.

Some of the many characteristics of a Type II Civilization will include: the ability to harness and control the power of a star; mastery of faster-than-light travel; the capability of inter-stellar travel; the colonization of other solar systems in our galaxy; starships powered by the collision of matter and antimatter; the ability to communicate all knowledge in a short, massive burst; initial contact established with other civilizations in the universe; the extinction of our inter-stellar civilization will be highly unlikely.

What do you think our children and grandchildren will see and experience in their lifetimes? Share your thoughts with us.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Open Revolution and the Information Age – Taking action to restore the American Dream

As I have said before in previous blogs on the 'Open Revolution', we are in the midst of the transition from the 'Industrial Age' to the 'Information Age' and are experiencing major changes and disruptions similar to those experienced when our country transitioned from the 'Agricultural Age' to the 'Industrial Age'.  Many organizations, business practices, skills, values, and behavior that worked well in the past have become ineffective, outdated and must change with the times.  

History reminds us that back during the Agricultural Age, the wealth of many nations and governmental power rested disproportionally in the hands of kings and their noblemen – the 1% of that era.  As we moved into the Industrial Age, conditions led to a series of revolutions (e.g. American & French Revolutions) where the 'middle class' wrested power from these nobles and set up governments that placed more power  in their hands.

Today, we again find ourselves in a position where the royalty or 'noblemen' of today, the billionaires and Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of large corporations, hold a disproportionate level of wealth and power – the 1% of this era. Again, as we transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, revolution is breaking out.  Hundreds of millions of people in the 'middle class' are seeking to wrest power away from the noblemen of today and restore fairness or balance to a system going out of control.

The Internet, computer chips, social media, and mobile technology coupled with open source, open access, open standards, open data, and other key components of the 'open' movement are all contributing to the disruptive 'Open Revolution' that is occurring all around us.  These new technologies and the growth of 'social networks' are being used to bring about major changes in the public and private sector organizations, as well as our society and culture in general.

So, once again let's ask the following questions.  What does this all mean to us? What steps will Americans take to strengthen or replace existing ways of doing business, improve the way our government works, and how we lead our lives in the 21st century?  What can we do to help shape a better future for our country and our people? We shouldn't just complain or shout at others about the current state of affairs, we ought to provide constructive recommendations on next steps to take as we move deeper into the 21st century.

So, let's start to figure out what 'We the People' believe ought to be the best way forward. Let's identify some of the key issues facing us and specific strategies and alternatives we should pursue. For example:

  • Do we want to see our global nation-state system give way to a world governed by large powerful multi-national corporations?  Is this what the 'Open Revolution' is all about?
  • Or, do we see the 'Open Revolution' and the Information Age empowering individuals and providing for a more democratic society?
  • Do we want to see decentralization and re-distribution of governmental power away from billionaires and  large corporations back into the hands of an informed citizenry?
  • Should we be insisting on the passage of laws outlawing corporate lobbyists? Not just placing restrictions on their activities, but outlawing them – especially by former Congress members or their staff.
  • Do "We the People" want to pass laws specifically aimed at reversing the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision allowing organizations to spend unlimited dollars on political campaigns?
  • Do we want to actively encourage the adoption of 'open solutions' as one way to increase competition and innovation in the coming century? e.g. open source, open access, open data, open standards, etc.
  • Should many of the "too big to fail" corporations and monopolies based in the U.S. be broken up? Has their power become a major threat to our Constitution and way of life?
  • As an alternative, should we more proactively encourage the growth of small and mid-size organizations that tend to compete and collaborate more in a truly 'open' marketplace?

What are your thoughts? What do you think needs to be done? How do you see the 'Open Revolution' playing out as we move deeper into the Information Age over the coming decades?

* Interested in the Future of America? Visit the blogging site on the America's Future: 2020-2050.