Ditch Command and Control

28/Jan/2015, Written by Peter & Ken Everett

In his book The Will to Lead (1997), Marvin Bower, McKinsey’s managing partner from 1950 to 1967, urges senior managers to abandon command-and-control structures and adopt a program to develop leaders, starting with themselves.

This is a remarkably prescient opinion: especially when you consider Bower was 94 years old at the time!

Here’s an excerpt:

"The shortcomings of command-and-control management are becoming ever more apparent. The hierarchy of bosses organised into ranks, with each superior exercising authority over subordinates who do exactly what their boss wants, has long been the dominant form of corporate organisation. But recognising that they are handicapped by their current systems, many companies are now questioning the way they manage themselves. They are striving for greater effectiveness and flexibility to cope with and capitalise on the fast-moving, ever-changing competitive conditions they see just ahead.

I believe that the old command system must be replaced. Fixing it is not good enough. My view is that authority should be replaced by leadership. By that, I don’t mean that a business should be run by a single leader, but that it should be run by a network of leaders positioned right through the organization. Leaders and leadership teams working together will, I suggest, run a business more effectively than a hierarchical, command-and-control structure."

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