Managerialism is the belief and practice that organizations have more similarities than differences. Managerialism holds the performance of all organizations can be optimized by the application of generic management skills and theory.
To a practitioner of managerialism, there is little difference in the skills required to run a college, an advertising agency or an oil rig. Experience and skills germane to an organization's core business are considered secondary.
Managerialism is an unfortunate vestige of industrialism and 20th Century manufacturing. It originated in controlling natural, mechanical and human resources for large-scale production of goods in urban factory settings. Managerialism is found in obese government bureaucracies and moldering institutional settings.
Here is one succinct definition from Robert R. Locke:
“Managerialism occurs when a special group, called management, ensconces itself systemically in an organization and deprives owners and employees of their decision-making power (including the distribution of emolument), and justifies that takeover on the grounds of the managing group's education and exclusive possession of the codified bodies of knowledge and know-how necessary to the efficient running of the organization."
The reorientation of work, the modern enterprise, co-creation, collaborative commerce, seismic generational shifts, etc. have flipped managerialism on its head. We see contemporary management fail outright using applied managerialism for today’s complex innovations.
Manufacturing QA methods such Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) and Total Quality Management (TQM) metrics applied to complex activities such as customer discovery and creation are disastrous. It’s a travesty of judgment. It hurts the very people business depends on!
Managerialistic business management strategies such as like Balanced Score Card (BSC) and Six-Sigma (6-∂) are still employed for complex functions like sales or consulting. It is a comprehensive, confident failure. It’s painful to witness.
Managerialism insults intelligence.
Granted, these 20th Century methods and techniques are waning fast as business rises and Baby Boomers retire. Still, managerialism is a nagging problem.
Managerialism exists because people are too afraid to suspend disbelief. Grasping the principles of complex systems leadership requires a lot of unlearning. Embracing the Network Singularity is a deliberate act.
To correct managerialism the first thing required is competent listening and authentic conversation. These are the main leadership practices for complex business systems and innovation. Paired with a strong people focus and customer attention, these practices will exterminate all lingering vestiges of managerialism. These critical, core behaviors allow you to lead with confidence in the era of 21st Century business.