By Sebastian Thielke Jul 2, 2015

We are all feeling the change. Co-workers are networking within the company, realizing the togetherness as a free and efficient part of the daily work. The company becoming more agile, innovative and most of all more flexible with its processes and projects. Not to forget the Corporate Management, which has to face new challenges.  Does all of this mean – radically speaking - that all managers are no longer managers, and that Corporate Management is handing over all Leadership to everyone? No, primarily it means to liberate from outdated principles through these new possibilities. How Leadership gradually changes through Networks The challenges the Leadership, Management and even the Organization are facing are essentially traditional mindsets and principles. In a networked corporation protecting knowledge can no longer be seen as the base of power, but rather enabling this knowledge as a part of the value of the company.

Step 1 In this first step Management and Leadership will have to understand that knowledge cannot be documented in Silos, documents or Wikis. Knowledge consists in the experiences, the communication and mutual exchange of those in the know – the employees. So, Managers and executives have to enable the co-workers to share knowledge, to divulge it, and primarily that this divulging is encouraged.

Step 2 The second radical step is that the Management also will have to be more fluent and flow. Once the co-workers are enabled to exchange with one another, to collaborate, and mainly to act independently, the role of Management in this environment will then be a fluidity, aligning itself to the main focus of the relevant Task-, Project- or Challenge- community. The Management and Collaboration organize along the communities and will continually reform and reorganize. Does this mean, that Management will become redundant? No, but they will once again be added value, and not the supervisory and special authority of years gone by.

Step 3 The third step is not that radical, but moves corporate governance back to its roots – corporate development, to think ahead, and to innovate. A networked staff and fluid management enable corporate governance to advance the company and to continually challenge and question the corporate model. Revolution Zappos The networked corporation can obviously be thought through even more radically. The current example of Zappos offers a good foundation to show that a transformation always equals a revolution. Changes have to be components of the corporation, and most importantly, the corporate governance has to stand behind it, as well as to push the transformation forward. Change Management will not succeed in this context, if failing with anchoring down the changes. Good bye, Boss! at Zappos No more job titles, no more managers, no more hierarchies. There aren’t too many companies that will follow through with implementing a network organization as radical as Zappos. They don’t have to, either. What can be learned from Zappos, though, is that the transfer of competencies to the staff will have to result in changes in the “blueprint” of the Organization. Otherwise it will not work. At Zappos the transformation leads to a completely new way of staff management. To be exact, to a self-management, within the respective communities within the network. Other similarly organized companies were previously able to show that this can work. Nevertheless, an Organization like this is not leaderless or without hierarchy. They are merely composed differently. Dynamic, flexible, and most of all not bound to functions, people or organizational patterns.

The fragile System of Change The fact, that almost 250 employees have left the company, because they couldn’t agree to the system of Holocracy is a continued subject of discussion. You could say that Zappos is at the toughest point in the transformational process: to still carry on and anchoring down the change. Regardless of criticism and doom and gloom, Zappos approach is following a new, radical and revolutionary path in corporate management in the organization; a path breaking through the ordinary will increasingly leave people and practices behind. The Management and Leadership Zappos aspires with networking and the new organizational framework, is new and will establish itself through trial and error. Nobody is saying that it is perfect. It will have to develop. It is the same with the leadership and organization of a networked corporation – it has to develop. We cannot take Zappos Blueprint and just apply it to any other company. It is more the approach and the courage that should serve as an example. Everything else will need to be tried out by each company for itself and from within.

Let go and Manage What can Management and corporate governance do during the transformation of the networked corporation?

  • Seeing opportunities in the networked company, without considering selfish advantages
  • Leading people and co-workers according to knowledge, openness and participation
  • Viewing knowledge as a constantly evolving and fluid company value, and encouraging it
  • Leadership through guidance and exemplifying
  • Constantly challenging and rethinking the business model, all processes, methods and environments

Eventually the company’s transformation toward a networked organization is merely a further step of a continuous reshaping of the company itself. If there is no more change, then the company will halt and stop to act according to business practices.

About the author

Sebastian Thielke Consultant Digital Transformation
Social Business and Enterprise 2.0 - Strategy Development, Enablement, Communications and Value added with the main focus on: People form the company.

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