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Management corsets

December 15, 2014

One of the observations I have made over the years is that senior management and the coal face get complexity as a concept; mostly the problem is with middle management.   Now I am not allocating blame here, it reflects the nature of the roles, and of course I am making very general statements.   The real point is that people trying to direct the enterprise and people dealing with customers know about complexity on a day to day basis.  So when you give them the science it legitimises what they already know.  Those in middle management administer process, or manage budgets and the like.  They have, over the years, been given less and less autonomy so their interests increasingly focus on risk avoidance.

I had that experience today over brunch in Mission Hills with the CEO of an organic retail chain.  One look at SenseMaker® as a capture and reporting device and he immediately saw the point of fast, real time feedback.  The potential for a new approach to customer panels and in store reporting did not need to be explained, he simply got it.   In a similar meeting the day before with a very, very senior Executive now a major philanthropist; three minutes into a conversation he saw the potential to reduce the US prison population.   Now this is a brief blog so I’m not going to expand on those specific projects.   The point is really the nature of interaction with the world and the level of disintermediation.  The more you restrict people’s freedom and put them into roles where their survival is depending on restricting the freedom of others, the less you should expect them to be open to innovation.

Nonaka used to talk about selling middle-bottom-up.  To be brutally honest I think that is up there with the SECI model in terms of bad advice.  Bottom up and top down to open up the middle is more what is necessary.  At the moment the corsets of middle management restrict circulation, prevent communication and damage the ability to make strategic decision making,  Those with the real world problems can see the value of novel solutions.  Those whose problems arise from process are too threatened.

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