This is not a rant about my fellow man. Nor is it an argument for getting confused. It is a suggestion. And a simple one at that. Here goes!
In the bad old days of the 20th century, western institutions favored something that they called “specialization”. The idea made sense at the time because big institutions didn’t need to adapt very much. They needed more profound knowledge within given fields. Like management and marketing. And they got it when educational institutions produced graduates who were given up to date injections of wisdom in those specialized areas.
Well, this starts to break down when adaption becomes more important. And that is the trend we are living with. The problem is simple. The more we specialize, the less we know about the big picture. We strive only to be experts about a piece of the picture. Ooops. This obviously doesn’t work when the picture is moving (imagine the shift from photo to video) as it tends to do now. And so we see an abrupt shift in thinking. Perhaps something is better than specialization! But what?
The funny thing is that we know we want it, but we don’t have a word for it yet. So we get long discussions about how individual companies are becoming less hierarchical and more “flat” and other case studies that say having a benevolent dictator is the best way to go. Hmmm …
Here is my take on this. The new word we are looking for is mixed up. We need to identify the shared goals of the various specialties and mix specialists into teams that more quickly meet those goals. Want an example? Ok. Are corporate marketing and strategy different or overlapping fields? A much smarter guy than me, Roger Martin argues that they overlap. They should be mixed up.
Hmm … Roger and his buddy AG Lafley have just come out with a new book called Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works. I might just have to read that one. The book is based on the impressive success the two authors had at Proctor & Gamble and it advocates a 5 question process to getting your strategic thinking straight in a world where adaption is king. Here are the questions -btw, they sound simple and they are. But that doesn’t make them easy to answer. The difficulty comes in selecting and applying the metrics for your answers.
(1) What is our winning aspiration?
(2) Where will we play?
(3) How will we win?
(4) What capabilities must we have in place to win?
(5) What management systems are required to support our choices?
All nice questions, though I would quibble a bit with 1 and 5. I think 1 could be better stated as “what is winning?”. I think 5 could be broadened from looking just at “management systems” to “ecologies”. But what do I know, anyway? After all, I am all mixed up.
If this way of thinking strikes a chord with you, you might want to check out Gary Hamel’s new book What Matters Now. I listened to Gary speak on Dan Pink’s podcast and found him to be rather insightful.