How to Manage At the Pace of Accelerating Change

Today’s managers face a difficult and unprecedented challenge: The world is changing much faster than their organizations. Every industry, without exception, has been overtaken by an accelerating pace of change that shows no signs of letting up any time soon. In a world where change is constant, it’s not surprising that many managers feel overwhelmed by what appears to be a completely unmanageable state of affairs.

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However, there is a small but growing group of vanguard companies that are thriving in this time of great change. What separates these vanguard companies from their traditional counterparts is that their managers understand a fast-changing world is not necessarily unmanageable—it just needs to be managed differently. That’s because, with the rapid emergence of the Digital Age, we suddenly find ourselves in a new world with a completely different set of rules. The managers of the vanguard companies are thriving because they have mastered these new rules, and in so doing, they have completely overhauled the fundamental disciplines of business management.

When we closely examine the organizational behavior of the vanguard companies, we discover that these enterprises are built around five very different disciplines that are rarely, if ever, practiced in traditional businesses. These five disciplines are:

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  1. Understand What’s Most Important to Customers.
    In a hyper-connected world, the best companies are customer-centric and are built around processes that make the task of delighting customers a higher priority than pleasing bosses.
  1. Aggregate and Leverage Collective Intelligence.
    Today’s most intelligent organizational leaders no longer leverage individual intelligence by constructing functional bureaucracies. Instead, they cultivate collaborative networks with the capacity to quickly aggregate and leverage their collective intelligence.
  1. Build Shared Understanding by Bringing Everyone Together in Open Conversations.
    Companies that successfully manage at the pace of accelerating change create innovative processes to effectively integrate diverse points of view, co-create a powerful shared understanding, and drive clarity of purpose across an entire organization.
  1. Focus on the Critical Few Performance Drivers.
    Management is about creating the future. Smart leaders don’t focus on outcome measures but on driver measures that create the outcomes.
  1. Hold People Accountable to Their Peers.
    The secret to mastering the unprecedented challenges of a rapidly changing world is to make sure that no one in the organization has the authority to kill a good idea or keep a bad idea alive. Holding people accountable to peers rather than supervisorsenables the collaboration necessary for speed and innovation.

If traditional managers want their organizations to have the capacity to change as fast as the world around them, they will need to embrace the new reality that managing great change is only possible if they change how they manage.  They will need to accept that a nineteenth century management model is unsustainable in a twenty-first century world and, like the successful leaders of the vanguard companies, redesign their organizations as collaborative networks.

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