There are trends in management — to me, they’re like parenting trends.
Interesting, important, but the wrong point of focus.
Management doesn’t change: its context does. (Context encompassing technology, speed/attention, attitudes about work, and a range of other social factors.)
We tell ancient stories because they resonate. Stories by Homer, Shakespeare, and Oliver Stone sell, because they document basic elements of human nature that haven’t changed much across the ages.
As long as management is about getting people to do what is needed, the art and science of management is about understanding and working with human nature.
So instead of watching trends, I’ll watch stories.
In 2011, one big story dear to my heart is New York City itself, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s application of his proud corporate style to municipal management has fascinated, irritated, delighted and provoked me. (Usually not all at once.)
- General Management. As Bloomberg selected Hearst executive Cathie Black to be schools chief, he held her up as a “superstar” manager. It’s rare to see that quality openly valued and discussed. How will this work out?
- Finance. How will we pay for municipal services we view as basic? (Especially in a city that’s used by many whose main financial contribution is via sales tax.)
- Technology. City Time, an IT project to integrate the city’s payroll systems is overdue, way over budget, and possibly riddled with fraud. Ouch. How did a project that appears to have gone so wrong escape management scrutiny?
- Lessons Learned. Great teachers to me, Mike Useem and Ed Bernbaum, taught me the value of stories in general (and catastrophes in particular) as a valuable lens for viewing leadership. What will we learn went right, and wrong, in the 2010 Christmas blizzard?
What stories will you watch in 2011?