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Do We Still Need Managers?

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

by Bob Larcher of the PCO (People Centric Organizations) Group

There is currently a lot of talk about leaderless or autonomous or self-managed or empowered teams; all this raises the question, “do we still need managers?”

First, a quick look at what is expected of a manager through the ages

In the late 1800’s Henri Fayol defined 6 Management Functions:

  1. Forecasting: determining objectives in advance and the methods to achieve them

  2. Organising: establishing a structure of authority for all work

  3. Commanding: making decisions, issuing orders and directives

  4. Coordinating: interrelating all sectors of the organisation

  5. Controlling: identifying weaknesses and errors by controlling feedback

  6. Reporting: informing hierarchy through reports, records and inspections

In Fayol’s days, the “workforce” was largely uneducated, underpaid and simply there “to do a job.” Today, over one hundred years later, the situation has significantly changed. In most companies the workforce is well-educated, reasonably well-paid and expected to be “actors” in their respective companies.

This change, coupled with the access to planning and organizing tools such as Slack, Workflow and others, has made a lot of what managers “traditionally do,” redundant.

If the “rational” part of management (task-focussed activities such as planning, organising, structuring, measuring, etc.), has been streamlined and made accessible to all, the “irrational” part of management (people-focussed activities such as conflict resolution, giving meaning, teambuilding, etc.), is still somewhat delicate.

Being responsible for people management, being a subject matter expert, managing projects and operations, implementing corporate policy, keeping people aligned with corporate goals… maybe means that managers are responsible for too many topics to excel at all of them.

As not all managers have the desire nor the competencies (even after extensive and expensive L&D) to excel at both people management and task management, maybe there is an argument that two roles should be separated. Task managers who look after the traditional more “concrete” management roles, not just for a team or group, but for a number of teams or groups, and people managers (facilitators) who look after the more “intangible” aspects.

The current “jack of all trades” manager clearly impedes ownership of solution development by all, impacts the ability to develop future leaders, dilutes subject matter expertise and, maybe most importantly, incorrectly assumes that all managers have (or

would like to have) leadership and coaching capabilities.

So, after all that, do we still need managers? And if the answer is yes, what do you think they should be doing?

Please send us your thoughts on this question!

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