Saturday, 14 February 2009

MLab Management 2.0: Donald Sull, Commitment Based Management



The context for this event, and the need for management 2.0, was provided by London Business School professor, Donald Sull.

There has been a fundamental change in the nature of work over the last couple of decades, moving from routine, hierarchical work to an environment where 40% of the US workforce (by headcount, more by value add) is co-ordination work.

The result of this is that employees are often spread all over the world, and management can’t see what they’re doing.  “Our HR colleagues may cringe” [I don’t see why?] but we can now longer tell people what to do.

One way of responding to this situation is to stop thinking about the organisations as a hierarchy of power or a bundle of competencies, and start considering it to be a nexus of constantly shifting networks of promises!

Ie organisations are simply groups of people making promises to each other in order to something done.

So a better way to get stuff done may be to simply manage expectations and commitments (like a ROWE).


My main learning: I thought Sull presented a powerful description of the way that the world of work has changed.  I’m not so sure that CBM is the best, or even an appropriate way to respond to this situation.  My diagnosis of this is that because co-ordination work is based on relationships, we need to manage, or more properly, encourage, these, even more than we did before.  If this is true, then simply managing outputs against commitments would be taking us in the wrong direction.



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