The Power of the Internet Isn't for Every OrganizationBy: G.A. (Andy) Marken
Today, organizations of all sizes are rushing to the Internet. By the turn of the century, industry pundits are predicting that firms that aren't on the INet will be the exception, rather than the rule. The attractions are compelling -- worldwide communications and sales, collaborative work where the lines of suppliers and customers blur, Internet document exchange (EDI), and communications capabilities that allow employees to work from almost anywhere in the world.
These benefits will also spell disaster for organizations and managers that canít or aren't willing to articulate goals and give up managing processes to empower their people to succeed while protecting them from failure.
Forces of Change
Downsizing, rightsizing, and budget cuts have eliminated the layer of middle managers who were formerly responsible for staff utilization. The remaining management teams are now charged with reshaping staff utilization, outsourcing non-core business activities and improving their communications deployment. For those who can delegate and let go the Internet is a valuable resource for improving inter- and intra-enterprisewide communications while controlling real and hidden costs.
For example, in addition to new management strengths, strategic use of the Internet was viewed as a key reason for Digital Equipment's recovery prior to their merger with Compaq. The company achieved significant office space savings by having some of its staff telecommute. Telecommuters often shared a single office at the organization's headquarters because they are seldom, if ever, on-site at the same time.
Like EDS, Anderson Consulting, publishers, agencies and a growing number of other firms, the company had people located close to customers and suppliers, rather than close to their bosses. Most of EDSís and Anderson's consultants carry notebook computers that allow them to spend the majority of their time in customer facilities while maintaining contact with other consultants and offices using e-mail and Internet EDI.
Management by Objective
These people aren't managed on a daily basis. They have goals, objectives and a mutually agreed upon direction. Their managers have come to understanding that they can't manage the process and they can't manage the results. They have learned how to read the order and pattern of chaos and realize that they can't predict or control the outcome. Instead they can help the organization optimize the future when it arrives.
With empowered staff members, strong managers are finding new challenges and opportunities as they work across organizational, industry and national boundaries to develop and promote shared visions and make them happen. They are maximizing the benefits of the Internet and their new organizational structure to carry out cross-boundary campaigns while sharing responsibility and influence.
In describing his approach to empowerment, Pushpendra Mohta, executive vice president of AT&T CERFnet, states that he shares many of the philosophy of Grace Hopper, the long-time guiding light of the Navyís computerization programs. He agrees that "It's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission." Scott McNealy, chairman of Sun Microsystems, says it a different way--"to ask permission is to seek denial."
Understanding Needs, Goals
These corporate managers understand the speed, reach, and potential the Internet. They use its tools to improve communications between the people inside and outside the organization. They encourage their people to set their own goals and their own agendas for achieving those goals--without fear of retribution if they happen to fail at meeting those goals.
Managers who feel that they must remain in complete control of every aspect of their business should avoid implementing the open inter-/intra-communications that the Internet provides. Once they have made this tool available, they will no longer be able to manage the people, the processes or the results.
M&M Managers Avoid the INet
These managers need M&Ms (meetings & memos) to fuel the processes and manage the staffs. They understand management's vision and goals, but feel that they can only be presented in a meeting or during a conference call where they can provide information on the approaches people should take, the timeline and the plan of action. Rather than sending an e-mail to someone with advice and assistance, they prefer to dictate a memo that will document their view of the program, the activities, and results expected.
These M&M managers are so obsessed with procedures and processes they don't have time to focus their attention and energy on guiding and leading the organization. They're uncomfortable with the knowledge that people can reach across the organization or outside the organization to temporarily bring someone onto the project team that they feel will help them achieve their goal.
Because M&M managers thrive on control, they stifle the effectiveness of Internet communications. In many instances, this is done by isolating aggressive Internet-savvy people or by narrowing "their team."
Combining the wealth of opportunities that the Internet provides with M&M management procedures creates a Catch 22 situation. It can make an organization even less productive than it was without the Internet. Much of the manager's time will be consumed with planning, organizing, integrating, interpreting, executing and measuring each opportunity that arises while the staff waits (perhaps until the opportunity has passed) for instructions.
As a result, organizations that are planning to implement Internet access, should be certain that their managers are not only comfortable with delegating, motivating and coaching, but that they're willing to become adept at using the Internet to manage change.
One of the Internet's biggest strengths is its lack of infrastructure. It is not surprising then that it requires organizations to be willing to make the transition from assignments, reports and procedures to concepts such as workgroups and staff empowerment.
© Copyright 2000, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications
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