Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Anti-Digital Mind: Command-Control Management Thinking

The C&C Style Might Scare the Sheep, but can't Tame the Tiger.

We are in the age of abundance of knowledge. Knowledge-work is more purpose driven and self-management, therefore collaboration, openness, sharing and integrity are fundamental for a joyful and productive teamwork. This is radically different from command-and-control (C&C) style of management. It’s more about inspiring and enabling than controlling. Metaphorically, C&C style might scare the sheep, but can't tame the tiger. So for the command-control management thinking, why is it out of date, and when could it be still effective?

The problem lies with the taylorism mindset of scientific management where everything can be controlled. Thus to bring order into the world of complexity means pushing harder on the process. This is not the behavior of waterfall, but the management mindset that typically sits behind a waterfall approach. The problem of C&C is that you can control people’s behavior, but not their mind. The digital leadership, means to give clear direction of what's expected, then allow those that follow you to choose how they get there. The leaders’ role is to empower their people to reach their full potential. This has liberating effect. Control comes into play when one monitors the process to see it is reaching the desired vision which has a managerial element. Creating a balancing act is a challenge for today's leaders to lead by influence, not brute forces.


The problem of C&C is not even 'command and control,’ it's authoritarian behavior and bureaucratic decision-making. Waterfall is a perfectly sensible structure, when used appropriately. Management's job is to control the work by commanding the people. The problem is that tools are used inappropriately, and command is a skill, not a right. The bigger problem is zealots that blindly make decisions without understanding the problem. For example, there are many agile people that will curse waterfall, but instead the problem is with the management style, not the methodology framework.


C&C is ineffective if relying on it exclusively (excluding things like listening, accepting feedback, ensuring that expectations are reasonable).  'C&C' is often used as a euphemism for 'bad, authoritarian management.' The problem is that the value, importance and method of these other essential elements haven't been reconciled with C&C. The established expectation of "C&C" is that managers will "Speak," Agile says that managers need to "Listen" - the true requirement is to "Have a conversation;"; with both directions of communication are required via empathy and trust.


The other issue with C&C is that it’s process driven, not begin with 'the end in mind;' according to which the leader should consider what he/she really wants as results from the employees. Typically more accountability, passion for work, attention to significant details with an eye on the big picture are common desired outcomes. Hence, rather than control which robs people of decision making powers and reduces them to mere execution, empowering them will help them grow into 'intrapreneurs,’ who believe that they can each make a difference to the business. The failure of an organization also comes from the inability to customize a process and make them their own which underpins the unique sets of business capabilities.


C&C is necessary in times of crisis; when actually people are waiting for someone to take front stage, take command, issue directions, and control the unfolding of the response. C&C is used to ensure all policy and procedure is met and that there is minimal loss of service to the client.


It is an important digital management shift from Command & Control (C&C) industrial style to I&I (Innovation & Influence) digital style, to establish the environment of autonomy and self accountability, to encourage autonomy and mastery, to improve performance and unleash potential.



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