The title of this post came whilst reading ‘We-Think‘ by Charles Leadbetter. There’s a rush of books out at the moment, describing how the Internet and related technologies are disrupting many systems by enabling people to form groups from the bottom-up and disrupt the traditional top-down hierarchy of order. Others include: ‘Here Come Everybody‘ by Clay Shirky, ‘Wikinomics‘ by Dan Tapscott and Anthony Williams, and ‘Groundswell‘ by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.

Working within organisations, large and small, you often see a curious phenomena. Some peers, when moved into management positions, would come back from their ‘management 101’ training with a whole new chip upgrade. They would talk about being part of the bigger picture, patiently explaining how time-consuming processes, previously intolerable, were actually a valuable performance management tool (aka manager’s time- and butt-saving device). At the extreme, some would actively disassociate themselves from their former peers. They now moved in higher circles… All quite hilarious when working in a knowledge-dependent environment. The car park usually requires more management than the team.

It’s the corporate version of military officer training, creating a command-and-control hierarchy.

Command-and-control involves treating those not in control as cannon fodder (literally, in the past). Officers plan, soldiers do. The business equivalent are managers and ‘human resources’. I have never understood why the Personnel department was renamed HR. It de-humanises the workplace. When you look at companies that have benefited from Web 2.0 trends and technologies, they share a common trait. A flatter networked organisation, giving everyone the opportunity to be involved and contribute. Individual talents are encouraged, not ignored because they don’t fit the standard job description. People have fun at work, including the boss! Management is still an essential requirement and skill. But the skill is in speeding up and directing the flow of information, not restricting it. Perhaps the best effect of ‘Enterprise 2.0’ will be to help re-humanise organisations.

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