Book News: February 5th, 2013

Steve Denning in his latest book – The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century, contends that management today is in need of a radical makeover. The existing practices are not adequate to meet the needs of the modern high-speed world, and to support today’s workforce.

People are motivated by inspiring leadership rather than command-and-control authority. He draws on the changes that are happening as a result of the application of Agile methods and shows how they are influencing organisations beyond the information technology space.

The book describes a way of managing that is suitable for the 21st Century. It resolves fundamental problems that traditional management hasn’t been able to resolve. In a world of rapid and constant change, management needs to be good at continuous innovation throughout the entire organization.

In a knowledge economy, the organization must be able to mobilize the full talents and energies of those doing the work. Finally, management must achieve all this without jeopardizing the levels of disciplined and scalable execution that traditional management is good at.

The author describes his approach as radical management because it goes to the root of what makes things happen in the world. The workplaces that it creates are drastically different from traditional management. It implies fundamental shifts in how we think, speak, and act at work.

For most established organizations, radical management is a paradigm shift. A paradigm explains the world to us and helps us predict behaviour. When we are in a paradigm, it is hard to imagine any other world. It is simply the way things are.

Traditional management is one such paradigm, with an interlocking set of assumptions, values and practices. It comprises a characteristic way of managing: top-down bureaucracy. Once the organisation sees itself in the business of delivering service, a command-and-control bureaucracy becomes the logical way to structure and manage it. Work is carried out by following a plan devised by management, communications are conducted on a need-to-know basis, and productivity gains are made by downsizing and outsourcing.

Radical management is a different paradigm. It begins with the different goal—delighting customers. Immediately , bureaucracy ceases to be a viable organizational option. Instead the organisation will naturally gravitate toward some variation of self-organizing teams as the default model for organizing work. That’s because it is only through mobilizing the full energy and ingenuity of the workforce that the organisation is likely to have any chance of success at generating the continuous innovation needed to delight customers.

Published by Wiley ISBN:9780470651353 £10.55