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Gary Hamel on Enterprise 2.0 and the Post-Establishment Age

Gary Hamel photoLast week at the first-ever Spigit Customer Summit, I had a chance to listen to Gary Hamel live. He delivered the keynote for the event, “Inventing Management 2.0.” If you’re a reader of Gary’s blog or his books, you know he’s a big proponent of empowering employees and changing management paradigms. See his 25 Stretch Goals for Management in the Harvard Business Review from last February for a great overview of his thinking.

In his speech last week, he did not disappoint. In fact, he provided a distinct rationale and call to action for companies to embrace the Enterprise 2.0 movement.

Driving the Autobahn in a Model T

In his presentation, there were two distinct graphs that really drove home the point that it’s time for new ways of managing companies. I’ve put them together below:

Gary Hamel - Why Innovation in Mgt Is Needed

On the left, a conceptual chart outlines something many of us instinctively feel. The pace of change in our world is increasing. As Gary Hamel noted, year-to-year volatility in company earnings have been increasing exponentially the last 40 years. Those changes are manifestations of what we all experience. I thought he put it well when he said:

What a company did in the past is now less predictive of its future.

Business Week in 2004 ran an article that nicely demonstrated the acceleration of change. It included these points:

  • The number of Fortune 300 CEOs with six years’ tenure in that role has decreased from 57 percent in 1980 to 38 percent in 2001.
  • In 1991, the number of new household, health, beauty, food, and beverage products totaled 15,400. In 2001, that number had more than doubled to a record 32,025.
  • From 1972 to 1987, the U.S. government deleted 50 industries from its standard industrial classification. From 1987 to 1997, it deleted 500. At the same time, the government added or redefined 200 industries from 1972 to 1987, and almost 1,000 from 1987 to 1997.
  • In 1978, about 10,000 firms were failing annually, and this number had been stable since 1950. By 1986, 60,000 firms were failing annually, and by 1998 that number had risen to roughly 73,000.
  • From 1950 to 2000, variability in S&P 500 stock prices increased more than tenfold. Through the decades of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, days on which the market fluctuated by three percent or more were rare — it happened less than twice a year. For the past two years it happened almost twice a month.

On the right, the chart provides the major innovations in company management over the past 150 years. Current management systems reflect philosophies that were developed in an earlier era of greater stability. A quick primer on the different management ideas (note – cannot find information on McCollum):

Taylor: Frederick Winslow Taylor advocated: “It is only through enforced standardization of methods, enforced adoption of the best implements and working conditions, and enforced cooperation that this faster work can be assured. And the duty of enforcing the adoption of standards and enforcing this cooperation rests with management alone.”

Sloan: Former GM CEO Alfred P. Sloan revolutionized the management of corporations through numbers: “Sloan oversaw the use of rigorous financial and statistical tools to profitably manage GM’s far-flung empire.”

McGregor: MIT professor Douglas McGregor developed Theory X and Theory Y: “In Theory X, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can. In Theory Y, management assumes employees may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control.”

Deming: W. Edwards Deming was a professor and statistician credited with revolutionizing post-war Japan’s manufacturing: “Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty). The key is to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces.”

The point Gary Hamel drives home is that our business and economic environment has irrevocably shifted toward higher volatility and accelerated change. The sundering of companies from healthy industry positions to crisis mode in relatively short order demonstrates the need for updating management philosophies.

Need for Better Adaptability in the Post-Establishment Age

My own term for this is the “post-establishment age”.  In prior decades, change was slower, and companies could count on inherent advantages that helped them maintain their established positions. As Gary Hamel noted, protections came in the form of regulatory frameworks, monopolies (e.g distribution), capital access and other ways.

These protections continue to erode in our modern, WTO-governed society. The web and digitalization of content and processes are making it easier than ever for new ideas to be tested. Consumers have access to more information than ever. Social media ensures more people know about new companies and products more rapidly then ever.

Old protections are falling, while change and industry disruption is accelerating. What can modern companies do to manage in this new environment?

Gary Hamel prescribes two strategies for companies in the post-establishment age:

  • Increased organizational adaptability
  • Pushing innovation and decision-making out to employees

Adaptability is a critical strategy. It means that companies pivot as they learn new information about their markets, competitors and changes in customer behaviors. As noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article noted, companies can try more ideas faster and less expensively than ever:

Technology is transforming innovation at its core, allowing companies to test new ideas at speeds—and prices—that were unimaginable even a decade ago. They can stick features on Web sites and tell within hours how customers respond. They can see results from in-store promotions, or efforts to boost process productivity, almost as quickly.

Gary Hamel then notes that senior executives continue to have a monopoly on strategy. This essentially makes companies dependent on a handful of executives’ ability to adapt to change.

Yet employees are probably the earliest to know when something is changing. They also are faced with situations where they must come up with solutions. It is in this environment where companies will find their sources of adaptation. In an article for the Harvard Business Review, 25 Stretch Goals for Management, Gary Hamel included these two goals:

12. Share the work of setting direction. To engender commitment, the responsibility for goal setting must be distributed through a process where share of voice is a function of insight, not power.

17. Expand the scope of employee autonomy. Management systems must be redesigned to facilitate grassroots initiatives and local experimentation.

In the post-establishment age, these strategies are what distinguish leaders from those that will go through another disruption.

This Is Enterprise 2.0 Evolved

The cornerstones of Enterprise 2.0 include greater information visibility, tapping the emergent knowledge of employees and increased collaboration. Those are the foundational elements. Use them to create a company of higher adaptability and distributed innovation and decision-making.

As Gary Hamel concluded in his keynote:

“You can’t build a company that’s fit for the future unless it’s one that’s fit for human beings.”

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