When the latest Management idea doesn’t work

We note with interest that Zappos, a US online retailer of footwear owned by Amazon, is to embrace ‘holocracy’. Holocracy is a management ideal which suggests that everybody is co-dependent, teams are overlapping circles, and that happy workers breed happy customers.

HolocracyHolocracy as a management concept isn’t new, the term was first coined in 2007, but this coverage gives it exposure. Other businesses, organisations and consultancy groups have made claims to latest and greatest management methods in the past. Toyota shared lean manufacturing and GE its Six Sigma efficiency model. Quality was every consultant’s byword in the nineties, we’ve had the Spaghetti Organisation (honestly) and IBM are experimenting with ‘agile management’ in an attempt to be more like the lean start-ups of Silicon Valley.

So should you adopt the latest thing? Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School has studied management ideas and says that ‘Nine-tenths of the approximately 100 branded management ideas I’ve studied lost their popularity within a decade or so’. He also notes that even Google and its once-lauded “20% time” idea, where staff were given one day a week to work on projects, is quietly being sidelined.

Birkinshaw concludes that there’s no one-size fits all management ideal and it pays to at least be sceptical of ‘latest techniques’. Improving the core leadership skills of managers so they can provide the ability to adapt management and cultural norms to fit a department or organisation’s goals are the long-term keys to organisational success.