I was interested to read, in the Wall Street Journal that persuasion is taking the place of old-style command and control management
True—and yet only half the truth.
The author, Erin white writes:
Managers say they increasingly must influence — rather than command — others in order to get their own jobs done. The trend is the result of leaner corporate hierarchies and the erosion of division walls. Managers now work more often with peers where lines of authority aren’t clear or don’t exist.
Historically, each business-development staffer worked with a specific engineer in Mr. Martino’s group [at IBM]. He wanted to create teams of engineers to work with business-development staffers. Business-development managers feared the move might lead to confusion and missed connections. So Mr. Martino agreed to appoint team leaders to help coordinate. He says the system is working well.
"The more we operate as a global company, you’re going to be faced with dealing more" across group boundaries, he says. "It’s just the reality."
That’s the truth part: that as organizations become more global, they must get more horizontal, matrixed, and team-based.
Now here’s the half-truth part: that isn’t the half of it.
Marry globalization to business process outsourcing, and you have a massive replacement of clear vertical management not by indirect management—but by commercial contracts with third parties.
Think it’s hard coordinating business development managers in Armonk with engineers in Tennessee? Try coordinating them with an engineering subcontractor in Bangalore.
The difficulty is not just about lines of authority—it’s about horizontal, commercial, supplier/customer relationships with the companies that now handle the work you used to handle internally across those corporate boundaries—which you used to think were complex!
Handling vague lines of authority is merely a way-station on the road to globally outsourced supply chains.
Jack Welch had it half right when he talked about the need for boundaryless companies. The half he missed was to get rid of the word “companies.”
Courses on influence are indeed taking over the corporate agenda from courses on management. But it’s a half-step and change is hampered because “influence” is still chained to an us vs. them paradigm.
The value of “influencing” skills is harshly limited if they are applied only to the achievement of sustainable corporate competitive advantage. If I’m on the same team as you, I might not mind being influenced. But if I’m the outsourcing partner you’re trying to influence, in order to increase your bottom line at the expense of mine, then every attempt at influencing me just makes me more cynical about your motives.
When applied to outsiders, when we say "influence," we mean “getting you to do what I want." Until we see customers and suppliers as on the same side of the table as we are, we cannot move to trust—helping us both get what we both want.