For a very long time we have conceptualised management as figuring out what needs to be done at the top of an organisation and issuing instructions to people about what to do.
In recent times the ability to command and control all aspects of organisational life have been increased with all-encompassing IT systems; and over time the size of the management factory – whose only purpose is to either command or control – has grown.
Studying service organisations reveals two things: much of the commanding and controlling originating in the management factory is actually sub-optimising the system, making performance worse; and many of the roles created add no value whatsoever to the system.
It is instructive for leaders to work out how many people are engaged in creating value for customers and how many are engaged in activities that are detached from this, the core purpose. For all of the latter, it then becomes important to ask: what value does this add to our purpose?
Going beyond command-and-control ultimately means completely re-fashioning the management factory, changing its purpose and roles. But it is not the place to start.
The place to start is putting control in operations. Paradoxically this gives far greater and real control. Because control is in operations it is also much easier to make changes, because the system is adaptive to customer needs.
The change in the locus of control leads naturally to a change in the roles of management. No longer is there a requirement to command and control, but instead a requirement to act on the system; management roles are redesigned to add value to the core activity of creating value for customers.
Going beyond command-and-control means, ultimately, a different structure, different measures different roles and, most of all, a different management philosophy.
John Seddon’s new book, ‘Beyond Command and Control‘ is now on sale.