Gary Hamel on Management Innovation

Gary Hamel’s back. This time he’s looking at “management innovation” in his latest HBR article titled – “The Why, What, and How of Management Innovation.”
A management innovation, says Gary Hamel, creates long-lasting advantage when it meets at least one of three conditions:
1. It is based on a novel principle that challenges the orthodoxy
2. it is systemic, involving a range of processes and methods
3. it is part of a program of invention, where progress compounds over time
Few companies have been able to come up with a formal process for fostering management innovation, says Hamel. The biggest challenge seems to be generating truly unique ideas. (No duh!)
Hamel gives us three examples of management innovation:
1. Harnessing employee intellect at Toyota.
2. Building a community at Whole Foods.
3. Growing great leaders at GE.
This time Hamel doesn’t mention Enron… (like he did in his first edition of Leading the Revolution) 🙂
So what is management innovation?
A management innovation can be defined as a marked departure from traditional management principles, processes, and practices or a departure from customary organizational forms that significantly alters the way the work of management is performed. Put simply, management innovation changes how managers do what they do.
And what do managers do? According to Hamel, managerial work includes:
• Setting goals and laying out plans
• Motivating and aligning effort
• Coordinating and controlling activities
• Accumulating and allocating resources
• Acquiring and applying knowledge
• Building and nurturing relationships
• Identifying and developing talent
• Understanding and balancing the demands of outside constituencies
Says Hamel:
“In a big organization, the only way to change how managers work is to reinvent the processes that govern that work. Management processes such as strategic planning, capital budgeting, project management, hiring and promotion, employee assessment, executive development, internal communications, and knowledge management are the gears that turn management principles into everyday practices. They establish the recipes and rituals that govern the work of managers. While operational innovation focuses on a company’s business processes (procurement, logistics, customer support, and so on), management innovation targets a company’s management processes.”
“A systematic process for producing bold management breakthroughs must include:
1. Commitment to a big management problem
2. Novel principles that illuminate new approaches
3. A deconstruction of management orthodoxies
4. Analogies from atypical organizations that redefine what’s possible”
Not too bad, eh? But how does one get managers to overcome their fear of failure? Most leaders in the Fortune 500 did not get to the oxygen-deprived board room on their talent for risk taking. I feel most got there for NOT taking risks, but rather for simply obeying orders and executing well on given tasks. Hamel does not address this problem, which I believe plagues all (ok, 99%) large companies.
While Hamel looks for management innovation, I’m still looking for innovative managers (now that’s an oxymoron).
Still, this is an article worth reading twice. And Hamel is back. I can’t wait to read the “forthcoming book.”
Almost forgot, Hamel also gives us a toolkit (a powerpoint slide set) you can download here >>
One last thing:
Hamel lists a dozen of the most noteworthy management innovations from 1900 to 2000.
1. Scientific management (time and motion studies)
2. Cost accounting and variance analysis
3. The commercial research laboratory (the industrialization of science)
4. ROI analysis and capital budgeting
5. Brand management
6. Large-scale project management
7. Divisionalization
8. Leadership development
9. Industry consortia (multicompany collaborative structures)
10. Radical decentralization (self-organization)
11. Formalized strategic analysis
12. Employee-driven problem solving
Adds Hamel:
“Losing out are Skunk Works, account management, business process reengineering, and employee stock ownership plans. There are more recent innovations that appear quite promising, such as knowledge management, open source development, and internal markets, but it’s too early to assess their lasting impact on the practice of management.”

One Reply to “Gary Hamel on Management Innovation”

  1. Gary Hamel: Bold management breakthroughs for the FORTUNE 500 manager

    In the current issue of the Harvard Business Review, management guru Gary Hamel has written a comprehensive article on The Why, What, and How of Management Innovation. (available as an 18-page PDF from Harvard Business School Publishing) Instead of foc…

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