Management is dead. Long live management.
Depending on the guru, you might hear either message. Who is right? Gary Hamel and Dan Pink remind us that management was created during the dawn of the industrial age to solve very different problems than we have today. This is true, for sure.
- We have different problems.
- Different opportunities.
- Different human imperatives (people are magical unique beings not error prone machines).
And yet! I am not ready to stick a tombstone onto the practice of management. Why? Because I think that the essence – the fundamental “why” of management - is the same and still needs to be done.
The essence? I believe that managers exist to help a group of people do their best work. We still need talented professionals doing this. It’s the “THIS” that has changed, not the calling, not the broad goal.
If, as a manager, you organize your day around those activities that will help your teams, peers, and managers do their best work, you will succeed. This is not only honorable and important work, this is compelling and amazing work.
As most of you know, I was diagnosed with cancer last July. Whenever anything like this happens to us – even something like a close call on the highway with an 18 wheeler – we think about life a bit more deeply. I have been thinking about legacy. Books – blah, blah, blah. Speeches – blah, blah, blah. Some awesome cliché management buzzword that everyone would say came from the “esteemed management guru Lisa Haneberg” – blah, blah, blah. I am convinced that legacy is achieved in more subtle ways – by making the world a better place, one person at a time. At home, you do this as parents, mentors, friends, and community members. At work, the best position from which to affect people is management.
Management is more relevant and needed than it ever has been. If we focus on the essence – doing whatever it takes to help people do their best work – we will know when to shed old practices and adopt new ones. We will know when to shift our thinking to tap into what most matters. We will know when we need to change our beliefs about people and contribution. And when we do this, our impact will endure and reverberate.