How To Lead In The New World Disorder

The disintegration of accepted ways of doing business in the last eighteen months to two years is the inspiration for this compact, incisive book.

The Death of Modern Management – How To Lead In The New World Disorder
The Death of Modern Management – How To Lead In The New World Disorder

Title The Death of Modern Management – How To Lead In The New World Disorder
Author Jo Owen
Publisher Wiley
Price €20.45

In looking back, the author posits that we are now entering the “third wave” of management, “a revolutionary phase”, moving from the “second wave”, i.e. “Modern Management”, itself emanating from the Industrial Revolution, which emanated from the move from the ancient craft guilds. With refreshingly forthright analyses of management trends and fads, Owen debunks Tom Peters’ theory of “excellence” as “ephemeral”, invoking examples to prove his point, and concludes that, yes, there has been a welcome shift away from the old “command and control” style – the more flexible “matrix” structure is preferable now.

A well thought out table compares “modern management” – the old order – to the “new world disorder”. He identifies the five drivers of the current management revolution:

  1. Technology – inspiring new ways of working, organising, competing;
  2. Education – educated employees, with increased expectations about work, means managing people has moved from ensuring compliance to building commitment ;
  3. Affluence – with wealth creating new markets and expensive employees, the search for cost control results in outsourcing and new ways of managing;
  4. Globalisation – in reinforcing the effects of “affluence” and increasing market size, scale is accelerating technological innovation;
  5. Recessions – recessions propel an already rapid pace of change allowing the strong to emerge even stronger when the good times return.

The book is laid out in chapters which reflect, in essence, the cornerstones of business as we have come to know it:

  1. Strategy – this new era “requires real thinking not just (the) dumb application of an unsound formula” – there are no “rules of success”. Porter’s Competitive Advantage theories are debunked as “BFO”, a Blinding Flash of the Obvious, the writer showing how “Strategy in practice” is developed in another useful table. Henceforth, managers need to network with consumers, suppliers and staff in forging the practical strategy for their organisation;
  2. Marketing and Selling –  “Producer push” has now become “consumer pull”, this chapter showing how consumer views and aspirations must now lead products to market;
  3. Power – a smart analysis of where power has been lost and to where it has gone is rendered all the more effective by Adam Smith’s prediction that “managers would look after their own interests first, not the interests of shareholders”. With power shifting to educated consumers and away from the West, “the wealth gap” and the “skills gap” mirror each other, i.e. those with more skills earn more, those with fewest skills will be stuck at the bottom;
  4. Money – a well-illustrated chapter on money and finance includes a sharp analysis of the budget process, including a critical look at public sector processes. He concludes that managers should rely on judgement, not formulas, to make decisions;
  5. Information – technology produces a barrage of information, the challenge for managers is obvious;
  6. Knowledge, and skills, now as important as traditional “capital”, is promoting greater specialisation, pushing managers to innovate, collaborate and network across and between organisations;
  7. Leadership – is “contextual”, i.e. what works in one context may not work in another. Experience counts far more than MBAs and qualifications – obvious perhaps, but this has been missed. It’s about “taking people where they would not have gone by themselves”.
“Management” is succinct – a manager must possess:
  • Business IQ – “business judgment”, borne of experience and formal training;
  • EQ – Emotional Intelligence – experience and some “peer group learning” helps to achieve “buy-in;
  • PQ – Political Intelligence – the art of gaining informal power to achieve the formal requirements of the job.

Combining these three talents, coordinating the skills of people at his or her disposal, enabling not commanding, is how this revolution is moving.

“The New World Disorder” is a tall order to analyse, but this book may just be what managers have been looking for post-economic crash.

Reviewed by Carl Hubbard
Communications Centre Manager,
Mater Hospital,
Dublin