Last century organisations shaped the work of managers – will it be networks that shape management this century?

In his 1974 book Management, Peter Drucker noted that it was the rise of big organisations that had had most influence on the practice of management last century.  What will be the next big influence on managers this century and might it be networks rather than organisations?  Let’s just say that networks of people rather than organisations of people are going to shape the manager’s role more than anything else.  What might this mean for management?

  • Managers may need to factor their networks into their planning to gain access to resources not controlled by their organisations;
  • The contribution that a manager’s work produces may become far more important than old style command and control – just look at the open innovation approaches now used by large organisations trying to tackle complex human problems;
  • Generation Y is apparently much more interested in dealing with social issues than the baby boomer generation (of which I am part – just).  How are managers to manage this interest in networking?
  • Much of Virgin’s incredible successes can be accounted for by the amazing networks of people created by its founder – is this a model for others to now follow?
  • The technology to facilitate networking is truly awe inspiring – LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and so on – it just seems that people really want to communicate and have conversations.  Can these networks be used by managers to increase productivity?
  • There is much talk currently about the need for us all to become entrepreneurs especially young people many of whom are being let down by big traditional organisations.  Perhaps, by the end of the century people will ask you how you network rather than what you do for a living?
  • If more people become self determining and run their own businesses, is there much space left for managers or will they have morphed into coaches and mentors for those that seek support?

Clearly, there are more questions than answers in this area.  Social media, social networking, the internet and how people use these phenomena will have an impact on the management role in one way or another.  Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves – how am I using my networks to achieve my goals?


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