Putting ourselves back in charge – Vlatka Hlupic

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I had the pleasure to hear Vlatka speak in Parliament a couple of weeks back, and then we had further conversations about her work. I asked her to write a post describing the research and the needed “Management Shift”. Here it is.

Prof Vlatka HlupicProfessor Vlatka Hlupic

“Recent publicity around Stephen Hawking’s fear that Artificial Intelligence could take over human society plays into a deep-rooted human fear of impotence before the inventions we create.

It sounds like a warning for the future, but arguably, this fear – that machines can or should or will control us humans – has been around for many decades, and has caused misapplications of technology. As this blog noted earlier this year, business planners at Ford caused plummeting quality standards and a strike in 1972 by increasing the pace of a production line beyond the ability of people to keep up. Since then, the corporate world has witnessed many similar failed initiatives at automation by governments and corporations who over-estimate the capability of machines, and neglect to manage their people well.

There is an alternative. This is to put ourselves back in charge, and to improve our ability to lead and to manage – both people and machines. This is something I have called the Management Shift, based on many years of research & development, and successful piloting in 20 businesses around the world.

My conclusions point to the need for a historic shift in perception and practice: to bring the management of people into the 21st Century, breaking with the Mediaeval concept of ‘command and control’. This old approach, trying to turn robots into people while treating people like robots, is not fit for purpose. We already have abundant intelligence in the sentient beings called human who are on the payroll, the problem is that only a few enterprises – the likes of Whole Foods or WL Gore – manage them really well. Getting the people management right is the key to using technology well – in addition to everything else.

I have formed the conclusion that many efforts at improving people management have been stymied by being partial or limited. For example, some employers decentralize away from command and control structures, but still keep command and control mindsets. Or there are efforts to boost employee engagement through one-off initiatives, but no lasting improvement to the day-to-day management in the line.

The shift that I’m talking about concerns hearts and minds as well as policies. I have devised a 6 Box Model, designed to ensure attention to all core elements of managerial responsibilities. Three dimensions refer to people: Individuals, Relationships and Culture. Three relate to the organizational set-up: Strategy, Systems and Resources. I have found that the employers that diligently attend to all six areas do best, and experience hugely improved financial returns, as well as more fulfilled employees.

Management ShiftPerhaps the biggest shame is that breakthroughs in people management do not garner anything like the same media coverage as developments in Artificial Intelligence. Let’s try to change that.

The Management Shift: How to Harness the Power of People and Transform your Organization for Sustainable Success, by Vlatka Hlupic, was published by Palgrave Macmillan  , November 2014.