Management is about to get much harder

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There are many schools of management theory. My very first experience of being managed was when I first started in a buying department and was told by my boss that I needed to be in before she was, and couldn’t leave until she did (even if that was 10pm).

I’ve been managed by managers that see themselves as a father or mother to their team (which has always left me bemused as I have a perfectly good mum and dad in a bungalow near St Albans and one of each is quite enough for me).

When I launched our strategy team at MediaCom back in the day, I was careful to explain to them my own personal management style. I told them that we were not a hierarchical structure, but more of an Anarcho-syndicalist commune where ideas ruled rather than authority. He (or she) who has the best idea leads.

New technology is set to make the management task even harder according to Andrew Hill writing in the Financial Times last week. (
Increasing automation leads to a reduction in unskilled workers. It doesn’t mean there are no people to manage however, just that the workforce that you do need is more sophisticated and is dealing with more complicated stuff than before. So instead of manning a production line, your people are dealing with customer relationships or myriad suppliers.

In media there is a switch to automated trading, exchange systems and competitive analysis . Interpretation of the oceans of data, and understanding the complexities of the customer journey and prioritising the best solutions therefore become more complicated, and of course more interesting tasks. This requires recruiting of the best and most curious people. Who are of course people who are less likely to do as they are told and more likely to carve out new ways of doing things. This is exactly what our business needs.

But as Andrew Hill comments about Foxconn (a leading manufacturer of telecoms devices) “The big question is how easily they will find and develop managers able to oversee the highly skilled workforce that will march with their robot armies”.

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