13 January 2011

Will the middle manager job disappear?

At least Lynda Gratton, from the Future of Work, think so. She thinks there are 4 reasons why the disappearance of the middle manager is on the cards: 
  • Technology has become the great general manager. It can monitor performance closely, provide instant feedback, even create reports and presentations. When technology can play much of the role of the manager – why have one?
  • Skilled team members are increasingly self-managed. That’s not to say they need a team leader – but this is likely to be taken from a member of the team who is highly skilled and it could well be a rotating role. So when teams can manage themselves – what can a general manager add? 
  • Attitudes toward management have also changed. As my research makes clear, Gen Y workers see no value in reporting to someone who simply keeps track of what they do, when much of that can be done by themselves, their peers, or a machine. What they do value is mentoring and coaching from someone they respect. Someone, in other words, who is a master—not a general manager.
  • It was possible in the past to manage ‘intuitively’ and for good management skills to come as part of the whole ‘decent person’ angle. Now management is fiendishly difficult – particularly if people are located virtually across the globe. These situations take extreme specialist skills to lead.
I couldn't agree more. But I also have another reflection on it: while the classic middle manager is subject to extinction from all the above, the job of the "middle leader" (?) will always be necessary. The leader, capable of shaking the status quo, driving change, inspiring, bring a strong team together like glue, pointing to the right direction and making people lose sight of distractions, will always be necessary. The difference might be that MAYBE we will evolve so much that anyone and everyone will be expected, capable and responsible for playing this role (which I think we still have a loooong way to go to get there).

For now, no machine can beat the gift of the linchpin.

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