Command & Control

"It is Command & Control, Jim—but not as we know it!"

Earlier this month I had a bit of a rant about "Servant Leadership" (follow this link if you're interested). The gist of it was: Military Officers and Business Leaders have the same role ... to ensure that all members of the value-creating community are the best they can be. That's an enabling service worth paying for. Today, as a leader, you serve those who choose to bring their talent to you/your organisation. They decide if you are doing a good job or not. They decide if you are worth your management package. They choose to stay or go. They determine if you/the company will succeed or not. Control ... forget it!

Some of my clients/colleagues over here think I've gone soft. Quite the contrary, actually. I think servant leadership is much harder than command & control/micromanagement/authoritarianism. Why bother taking the harder route? Here's the disquieting logic—if you think I'm wrong, please tell me:

Traditional Command & Control logic is based on the world as it used to be, rational, predictable, and stable. A world where well-defined processes produced predictably good results, and refining processes produced better results. It was a world where there was little scope for discretionary human value added to the execution of process. As a consequence, engaging people was unnecessary in a management culture conceived in the blast furnaces and assembly lines of the 19th Century. Unfortunately, relative to the social and technological changes in the last century, little has changed in management culture.

Future winners are turning the old logic on its head by making the value creators the heroes. (Think sports teams!) The future losers are those companies where doing well is about getting out of a customer value creation role and into management (Think Fortune/FTSE500). How many talented value creators will stay in a company where management fat cats out-earn people like themselves by ratios of 4/5/6/7:1? No—they'll leave and go somewhere more rewarding to work their magic and make their money.

I'd propose that our role as managers is to ensure that each member of our value creating (read org successes ensuring) community is contributing to the maximum of their potential. If we are doing anything other than that, we should STOP IT NOW or fire ourselves for dereliction of duty. We are no longer process policemen but talent coaches. It's 100% a trust thing. We're in BIG trouble.

As the personal implications of this scare me half to death, I'd love to be convinced by you that I'm wrong on this. Please try (hard)!