Monday, 13 December 2010 08:51

Rethinking management for the information age


IT companies tend to be based on old and no longer relevant notions of management. Structures and practices need to change, an executive at a leading web company has suggested.

Are information age companies still trying to apply ideas about management that were formed in the industrial era? Richard Durnall, head of delivery at REAGroup (the company behind and similar sites in other countries) thinks those that do are making a mistake.


Speaking at this month's YOW! conference for developers in Melbourne, Durnall outlined the history of management thinking and pointed out some of the weaknesses of traditional models. They include giving priority to ease of management instead of delivering value to the customer, and failing to recognise that today's highly-educated knowledge workers are very different to the 19th and early to mid 20th century workforce, or even to their contemporaries in relatively low-skill occupations.

Durnall argued for the 'outside in' development of organisational structure that starts with customers and the identification of something they want that the venture can deliver. Then the internal processes can be designed, followed by process metrics and structures to support those processes. Only when that has been done should the members of the management team be established.

Applied on a continuing basis, this model allows a company to follow the changing needs of its customers without the need for a major restructure every few years, he suggested.

He also called for hiring policies that go beyond competence and capability to also include cultural fit [a term sometimes misused to mask the discriminatory practice of only hiring 'people like us' - SW] and candidates' appetite and ability to learn. High levels of personal integrity are required in a collaborative workplace, he warned, otherwise "you break the game."

What else did Durnall have to say? Please read on.

Durnall's observations and advice also included:

Great management is not a substitute for great leadership
You can inspire, but you cannot motivate
People are more important that process or technology
There's no one right way of doing something
Pain is good, but it needs to be the right kind, and people must be empowered to fix its cause
Keep the faith, especially when you need to bet your job on a decision



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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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