Seth godin teaches us in Linchpin that the factory is dying. Or at least, that the rewards for building and working in a factory are dying. That successful people and companies now are rewarded for creating art; not for racing to the bottom and selling the cheapest thing that was created as efficiently as possible.
This has me thinking about management, and specifically, which people need to be managed and which direction managers need to be focusing their attention.
In the factory, managers manage down. They receive an order from their boss, pass it on to their employees, and then make sure it happens the way the boss wanted.
But what if the boss is wrong?
In the factory, it didn't matter. If you did what the boss wanted you were rewarded, you got promoted, and made more money. Because you were a good manager.
But in the new economy, the one where people buy stories, and relationships, and things that are remarkable; if the boss is wrong and everyone manages down, the company dies, literally.
You can almost be guaranteed that Enron, Citibank, Bank of America, and AIG all have managers that managed down really well.
But what they didn't have was managers that were able to manage up. People who were able to successfully stand toe to toe with their executive superiors and tell them, "no, actually, I won't commit fraud to help our bottom line. And I won't have my team do it either."
Yet that's exactly what those companies needed most.
And this is the reality for most companies today. What organizations need most are not managers who are able to create lists of tasks for the workers and then make sure that those tasks are completed successfully.
No, what managers need to be doing today is giving their people the creative freedom to thrive, while managing upwards so that their teams can be successful.
So, if you're a manager and you're not quite happy with how your team is performing, you should spend a little time thinking about whether you really need to be managing them - or if you need to be more effective at managing your boss.