Leadership and Governance
Economic Forum 2002
modern corporation is a fragile institution. To survive
in today’s turbulent world, it must be able to, on the one hand, make an
accurate assessment of its
environment so as to strategically position itself correctly in this volatile
environment; and on the other hand, remain faithful to the (unwritten) moral
contract it has with employees to provide them with an environment that sustains
them and allows them to grow as individuals.
Needless to say, achieving these two aims is not only difficult but also a
never-ending effort. And it only takes one wrong move to bring the whole edifice
down, shattered into a million little pieces.
How can the modern corporation cope with such fragility? Surely not with
the structures and processes that we have developed and perfected over the last
50 years! And certainly not with the mindsets and behaviours that won the
Cold War for us. No, what is needed is a total rethink of how we manage the
to this rethink must be the realization that the only way an organization can
remain “flexible” and “fluid” is by becoming amoeba-like: moving in a
certain direction but always responding to local stimuli and changing direction
in response to new information from its environment. How can this be achieved?
Only by giving people autonomy and freedom to monitor what’s going on around
them and respond as they see fit. No room for “generals” any more because
everybody will be a general! But how can we do this without descending into
chaos? Through organizational strong values and beliefs which act as the
parameters within which our people are free to operate. Gone are the days when
plans, incentives and hierarchies ruled the world. Let’s welcome the new
“moral” corporation because this is the species that will dominate our world
for the next century.
1) Professor of
Strategic and International Management, London Business School, United Kingdom
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