HBR: ‘We need better managers, not more technocrats’
We hear a lot about the whizz-kids starting up their disruptive technologies from their garage. There’s a good reason for this. Digital technologies seem to be changing almost every area of our lives and businesses, from the where and when and how we collaborate with our work colleagues to the way in which we source, collect and listen to our music. But equally important are the managers and leaders whose challenge it is to adopt and adapt to the innovative new technologies that spring up all about them. Without technologically adept and inspirational leaders, businesses and society as a whole will fail to maximize the huge potential offered by digital technology. In order to do scale the technological heights, we have to think in terms of ‘digital transformation‘.
Well Didier Bonnet and George Westerman have gone some way to addressing this in a recent blogpost for HBR. In this post they argue for the key role to be played by managers and leaders in the adoption and propogation of new technologies.
Their research, covering over 400 companies over four years, shows thatmanagers at the majority of firms are not ready in terms of ‘skills, competencies and courage’ to lead digitial transformation effectively.
However, their research also uncovered some inpirational exceptions which they term ‘Digital Masters’. These Digital Masters displayed several key traits which enabled them to be brilliantly effective leaders in the new technologically transformative landscape.
- Vision: Successful Digital Masters displayed the courage and create and imaginatino of how things would look different under digital transformation. In this new landscape managers will be driving without a map. they ‘were not handed a blueprint for the digital future…. they drew it’.
- Employee Engagement: Without employee engagement it is nigh on impossible to set change in motion. The art of successful management is to use your energy to get both emplyees and stakeholders behind your vision.
- Digital Governance: The biggest benefits from digital transformation come from cross-silo coordination and sharing. For chemistry this to happen it requires effective leadership and far-sighted planning.
- IT/Business Fusion: The notion of IT being there simply to fix your PC or set up your printer is dangerously outdated. Integgration of business and IT teams is now essential. It has become a profound part of the process of operational change and innovation.
Bonnet and Westerman finish by emphasizing that human and leadership skills will continue to play a huge role in value creation both within firms and within the wider economy. ‘Regardless of industry or geography, businesses will become much more digitized in the years to come. It’s inevitable. But we do not subscribe to the view that technocrats will therefore become the new managerial masters. Quite the contrary, leadership and human-centric organizations will remain the path to innovation, fulfilling work, and value creation.’
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