Thinking Managers

Robert Heller of says that new, high-tech management tools must be used for old and non-technical situations.

Complicated Management

If you think that management is becoming increasingly complicated, you are probably correct. Management's increasing complexity has been apparent for 40 years and no doubt it will continue.

One example is the internet, which is constantly reinventing the complete customer process, from information to after-sales.

The outcome is the process of change has become much quicker; it is much easier to change a website than the layout of a factory.

But high-tech tools must also be used in old situations and non-technical ones. Managers must show analysis and decision-making skills and the ability to seize a situation and make the best of it.

P&G turned around a case of the Big Company Blues by adopting a new innovation known as 'Connect and Develop'. P&G left behind its obsession with internal innovation and went in search of ideas from outside the company.

Their search was based around pinpointing the Top Ten consumer needs, identifying new concepts and products to make the most of 'existing brand equity' and utilising 'technology game boards' to answer key questions such as: which technologies need strengthening? Which need to be acquired for better competition with rivals?  Which of those that are already owned need to be licensed or developed further?

It is true that using outsiders can dilute the control usually enjoyed by the corporate centre. P&G has a vice-president for innovation and knowledge with day-to-day accountability for Connect and Develop.
But this role involves overseeing initiatives he can't 'manage' in the traditional sense. A.G. Lafley, the CEO, set the new approach in motion and pointed to a wide goal of acquiring half of P&G's innovations from outside the company. The way the company managed itself was radically changed.

In turn, this dramatically changed the results and R&D productivity rose by almost 60%. Innovation success rates increased by more than half, while innovation costs fell.

'Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those who are led. The most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders'.

These wise words came from Mary Follett back in 1924. Unfortunately, managers have failed to catch up with this wisdom ever since. Innovative creativity is where new approaches to management are most needed, and P&G is a good example.

The entrepreneur is a creative innovator who must find an indisputable answer to the fundamental question of why the customer should buy from him instead of one of his competitors.

The P&G story shows that getting the right answer is a lot more complicated in this complicated world.

Innovation in products and processes, which includes management processes, is vital for mastering the complex challenges. Leaders should encourage and develop as many sources as they can, both internal and external.

About the author
Robert Heller is one of the world’s best selling authors on business management.