I believe that “People join companies, but leave managers”.

People will join a company in the belief that the image and reputation that it projects is what they are looking for in an employer, and as such somewhere that they can learn, develop and grow, be challenged, meet and work with great like-minded people, and have fun along the way.

The vast majority of people tend to leave a company because they have not been able to establish a credible working relationship with their immediate supervisor. It is rarely about money or working conditions. This seems reasonable, as your boss is the one who determines what you do, who you get to do it with, how you are measured, how you are rewarded, how you are developed and what opportunities are presented to you.

I therefore consider “Quality of Management” not only one of the critical elements for talent retention and development, but also the key element for business success.

One of the disappointments in my move to Europe in 2001 was that I have seen little evidence that European companies have created a culture of management as a profession. Management skill appears to be more of an add-on to vocational brilliance, rather than being viewed as an art, a science and an asset in its own right. The idea is that management skill is a “nice to have” rather than a mandatory part of an executive’s role.

I had a long series of interchanges with one executive who actually told me that managers were like horses, and that “ … in life you were either born a race horse or a draft horse, and race horses shouldn’t pull carts and draft horses shouldn’t run at Epsom … “. His belief was that any skilled, intelligent, well educated professional could become a manager, and that being intelligent he would work out what was needed to fill the role. Interesting thought, but I have always believed that the difference between a race horse that looked good, and one that could also win races, was how well you trained and prepared the horse for what was expected of him. (see Flogging a Dead Horse posted on July 2, 2010)

1. Furthermore the predominant European management style of “command and control” will not wash well with the next generation.

There are changed expectations that rather than a top down approach to management, the future will involve much more discussion, much more involvement, much more collaboration, much more personal involvement in role definition, much more peer review, and much more self managing teams, as well as possibly significantly less full time work.

2. Emergence of mega-corporations.

I also believe therefore that the nature of Corporations will also change dramatically, and as such so will the need for management needs and skills change with it.
Over the last decades, we have seen the emergence of mega-corporations. We have seen more mergers and acquisitions this century so far, than we saw in the entire 200 previous years of business history. Companies grew because they could, as capital was readily available in support, and from a belief that “bigger is better”, and in particular as a way to counter the competitive threat coming from countries like India and China.

Diwang Building on Shenzhen Skyline, Guangdong Province, China

I believe that the days of the mega-corporations may well be numbered. Under the current economic realities, companies are not prepared to keep hiring just to build hordes, whilst at the same time I see a changing attitude amongst young people today to the concept of fulltime employment, whatever the weekly working hours, or vacation plans.

3. The days of joining a company for life are long gone.

The days of joining a company for life are long gone, even with my own generation, and whilst my children’s peers still considered the idea of a career spanning maybe a handful of companies, I see that today’s youth can see careers that involve working for 20 or more companies in their work life. On top of this there is a rejection by many of the idea that they will be “allowed” to take 4 or 6 week’s vacation each year. They want to build a work life where for example, they work full time for 6 months and then trek in the Himalayas for 3 months, or work on an “awesome” project for say 2 years, but then spend a year back at university doing something interesting, or sailing round the world.

4. Coming growth of the independent professional.

I see therefore the coming growth of the independent professional, who chooses what he does and when he does it, and with/for whom, linked in to and visible to his potential hirers through specialist networks where his skills and experience can be vetted and proven, and where he can bid for and/or receive offers for roles that suit his skills and his personal requirements.

Three professionals discussing project

This is very much the way that movie studios work, bringing together the specific team that they need to make a particular film, which will then disband on its completion. The sequels will bring together some of the same people, but it is unlikely that they will ever reconstitute exactly the same crew as needs will have changed somewhat over the intervening time period.

I believe that many Companies have a long way to go to establish a culture of management as a profession for today. Their onward journey to be able to professionally manage the next generation may be just too great a distance for them to cover.

I was wondering whether anyone else had also seen this trend away from the concept of full-time employment and a move more towards something more like the film studio model.
I would be interested in your comments and input.



  1. Frank Liebeskind says:

    Les, 100% in agreement with all your points..
    I think the “film studio model” will gain traction in Australia, as the GFC has forced variable cost models and the “best fit executive, for the task”. In an increasing “project” based business strategy your studio model works best. Regards, Frank

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