The need for the New Managers

The very nature of work – what people do as members of organizations is rapidly changing. This phenomenon is called ‘new work’ by most experts.

New work involves less rote repetition and more problem solving. Value is added by customizing and continuously improving a product or service to meet customer needs. New work is enhanced, not imperiled, by technology. And it cannot be instantly duplicated overseas because it depends on the one resource within the nation that remains durably here with us – our minds.

A recent analysis published in Fortune magazine painted this picture of the workplace in the year 2000:

1. The average company will become smaller, employing fewer people.
2. The traditional hierarchical organization will give way to a variety of organizational forms, the network of specialists foremost among these.
3. Technicians, ranging from computer repairmen to radiation therapists, will replace manufacturing operatives as the worker elite.
4. The vertical division of labor will be replaced by a horizontal division.
5. The paradigm of doing business will shift from making a product to providing a service.
6. Work itself will be redefined; constant learning, more high order thinking, less nine-to-five mentality.

These changes demonstrate yet another way in which the world of relationships and their evolution over time is taking on new meaning and holding new opportunities for the managers of the twenty first century and their organizations.

And the Day ends:

It is 5.00pm and Natalie decides it’s time for a bit of MBWA – management by walking around. Diane has gone home, so Natalie bypasses her desk and heads for the open door to Ann-Marie’s office. She finds Ann-Marie swearing at her computer; she is just lost some files that she spent the afternoon developing. Put a call in to the Help Desk. Natalie suggests. Ann-Marie seems relieved to hear a friendly voice. They chat while they wait for a computer specialist to arrive. Ann-Marie proudly brings Natalie up to date on the fortunes of her softball team in the company league.

Once the specialist shows up, Natalie is off to see Vladimir, her supervisor. Vladimir has at least ten book covers spread out on his office floor. He and several editors are surveying the display. There is no shortage of assistance coming Vladimir’s way. Prompted for an opinion, Natalie contributes her two cents’ worth: I hate yellow.

Then she moves on to see Franco. When it appears that he has left for the golf game he mentioned yesterday, Natalie takes the cue and heads out of the building. It is past 6:00 pm. Tonight she will try to catch up on her personal correspondence and squeeze in an hour at the health club.

For Natalie, it has been a full day of working through relationships throughout Prentice Hall. She has interacted with long time co-workers sitting just around the corner from her office and she has developed working ties to relative strangers from around the nation and the globe. In all these relationships, Natalie has constantly been conscious of time; her time, their time, the history and future possibilities of each relationship and of their organizations.

Managing is living in the middle of the relationships that make up and sustain an organization. Managers can be classified by level – first line middle or top. They can also be classified by organizational activity – functional managers are responsible for only one activity, and general managers are responsible for all the functions in an organizational unit.

In moving organizations toward their goals, managers adopt a wide range of interpersonal, informational, and decision making roles. Time and human relationships are crucial parts of these roles. Managers at different levels need different types of skills. Lower level managers need technical skills more than higher level managers, who rely more on conceptual skills. Managers at all levels need human skills.

In a rapidly changing world, managers have reason to infuse their planning organizing, leading, and controlling expertise with vision, ethical analysis, responsiveness toward cultural diversity, and a new understanding of the very idea of work and the workplace.