Companies spend a lot of money finding the right leaders and helping them to hone their management skills. In fact, Forbes reported earlier this year that spending on corporate training in the United States grew by 15 percent year over year to reach $70 billion. That means $70 billion is being spent on leadership development, just in the U.S.
In that regard, it is easy to think that if enterprises are allocating that many resources to empowering their leaders, it would be critical to let these guys do their job and manage the workforce to greater success. But as Business 2 Community contributor Leslie Brokaw suggested, you do not necessarily want managers digging their hands into everything and trying to call all the shots. In fact, some businesses are finding a lot of success by taking a more hands-off approach.
B2C dubs this leadership strategy "wikifying" because it takes the form of a bottom-up structure similar to that of Wikipedia – the ones doing all the heavy lifting and taking initiative are the writers, not the people in charge of the website. Some business pundits believe that instead of having one or two managers who lead everything, companies should look to empower their workers and give them more autonomy to do their own jobs.
In "wikified" business environments, management still plays a critical role in terms of leadership and collaboration. Successful leaders, for example, will be able to quickly identify the right people for a job, know which tasks can be delegated and which activities they need to take a more defined role in. It is all about recognizing talent and maximizing efficiency.
Of course, this approach to management does have drawbacks. In "Why Managers Still Matter," Nicolai Foss and Petter Klein noted some scenarios in which having strong management is pivotal.
"From our perspective, the view that executive authority is increasingly passé is wrong," B2C quotes the authors as writing. "Indeed, we have found that it is essential in situations where (1) decisions are time-sensitive; (2) key knowledge is concentrated within the management team; and (3) there is need for internal coordination. Such conditions are hallmarks of our networked, knowledge-intensive and hypercompetitive economy."
After investing so much into training managers and leaders, it is easy to for businesses to rely too heavily on these professionals. This is bad in some ways because it creates a lot of pressure on these key individuals to lead. Moreover, when managers get too involved with every minute activity, they could lose track of the big picture and fail at some of their own responsibilities. You see this in small businesses all the time, where owners who once did everything try to adhere to this model as their business grows, and then find they cannot capitalize on opportunities effectively because they are too busy trying to do every other job besides manage.
However, an autonomous workplace is not the answer to every problem, either. For managers and leaders, the key should be in determining when and what they need to be managing effectively.