The new challenges of management at the digital time

Oracles management announced for the last ten years the death of traditional organizations: welcome to the digital economy, the network organization and the dematerialized management. However, the forescast seems to become reality : we have to accept the fact that our old organization are dying and that opens a new era in the life of organizations. Therefore, let’s try to isolate the features of a radically new management which we call here « management 2.0. »Â We shall take a particular angle: in what does this evolution towards a management 2.0 modify in a deep way the use that we make of information technologies,  which the smartphone is the most visible emblem ? The original post in French is here.

1st challenge: be nomadic but remain collective

Creating value in the new economy is initially know how to combine knowledge in new ways that are scattered around the world.  The manager thus has to go out of his company to weave these unpublished links between domains of the knowledge (electronics, science of the alive, marketing…). Hence the challenge: to be mobile without loosing the connection with his company.  This involves very different mechanisms of socialization. For instance, the use of digital workplace cannot be seen as a simple productivity tool (I manage my work to have less back to the office) in the new era, the technology will be warm and socializing. It will no longer simply convey the information, but it will become a tool for fostering interaction between an individual nomadic and his community.

2nd challenge: renewing the social contract of the company

This brings us to the second challenge of the management 2.0 which consists in renewing the terms of the social contract between the company and the employee : « I give my workforce as long as it allows me to develop my value on the job market. » But in the new economy, the value of managers depends primarily on the value of their networks (internal and external). Hence even  a renewed use of technologies:  it is not any more (was it before ?) necessary to close the access to Internet to the employees, but on the contrary to incite them to widen their network through all the available tools (blogs, Twitter, Linkedin…): these tools enrich me as they enrich the company because through them I extend my personal networks as well as those of the company.

3rd challenge: to create new ways of leadership

But then appears the tremendous question, our third challenge : how to command when we are at the head of a troop of nomadic managers who possess often more information than ourselves? The ownership of the information does not any more allow to establish power. As well as the desire to be on the critical path of all decisions. Leadership in the new economy is upset : the universe is more ambiguous, multivalent and more multicultural.  It is not thus a question only of possessing the information, but to decode and to add value as well. And this understanding is not only based on its intellectual skills: social skills also come into play; understand (and listen to) others is a prerequisite to understand the information that they try to deliver to me (or hide to me).

4th challenge: create value, and not simply be profitable

Begins to draw a new manager (or the one define in management book for a long time), very different from the one of the industrial era that sought first to optimize costs. Cartesian rationality served as a reference for him to optimize the functioning of the company : he decided on an action if it was considered profitable in the short term and pushed aside any idea presenting a potential of risk. From now on, the question asked to the manager is  its capacity to optimize the collective functioning of the company. He can not any more imagine simply create value in terms of its own reasoning. The company has become more complex and it is a question of integrating into any calculation of optimization the other stakeholders, whom they are within the company or outside : the manager must be collaborative, partnership and negotiator. Information technologies become tools of collective productivity to be used as an interactive interface and which caring perspective of the other.

5th challenge: the production of collective knowledge

But do not forget, the basics of the organization remain the same: the manager, however « 2.0 » he is, must also deal with an organization which has its constraints and its resistance to the change. The outside knowledge cannot go into the company without a work of in-house appropriation. Individual knowledge should be gradually transformed into collective knowledge : this is another major challenge for businesses to leave sufficient room for maneuver to not kill innovations which individuals are necessarily carriers. Even there, information technologies can be used to play this role for incorporating external knowledge at the heart of our old organizations: Bounce directly on an information, be confirmed a point of view, asked for its opinion to another person, seen appearing an answer of a person « not authorized »… Gradually, knowledge takes shape, but collectively this time. The multitude of these information that we deplore too often (infobesity) actually allows the networking of views and the progressive development of a decision that we can no longer know who is at the origin.

6th challenge: manager with both the EQ and IQ

Where from a necessary change of posture for our managers with a head screwed on right : the taylorist manager could manage with his intelligence quotient (IQ) : it was sufficient to establish the terms of the problem and to define the optimum result. What about the appropriation by peole ? If an employee does not understand that it was not competent or that he was poorly explained. Training and information could solve the problem. The IQ can not alone suffice: the « 2.0 » manager will also need to use the Emotional Quotient (EQ) to create his network of influence. It will be necessary for him to listen and to understand others, who if they don’t understand, doubtless has good reasons for not wanting to understand. The stake is from now on to learn to know better different actors with different ways of thinking,  in a more and more multicultural environments and in companies more than ever opened to « outside » stakeholders.

7th challenge : community diversity rather than unitarian discipline

All this give us a much less organized image of the company. In the industrial era, the company was stratified, we did not meet if we did not have the same status. The actors had vested interests (workers, managers, customers, suppliers, …). Today, communities prevail: otherness and diversity replace the uniformity and become the collective strength of the company. These communities are composed as needed and disappear when they are no longer useful. The actors meet and work around shared but momentary interests. New technologies allow to create and manage digital and multi-form communities.

8th challenge and conclusion: learn the reality of the virtual

In the industrial era, the technology used to « mechanize » interpersonal relations: the man – machine interface is required as a screen. From now on, the technology releases the imagination and returns organizations in the profusion of the digital worlds. « My » smarphone is the mirror of my personality through my messages, my contacts also guess my intentions, my closeness towards them, the concern that I attach to their viewpoint. Making it the information technology can produce this collective intelligence. Digital becomes real and what is there can be the most difficult to admit for most of us.