We have all heard praise heaped on companies with flat structures, erectile which echew hierarchy in favor of consensus. But people can be forgiven their skepticism about whether this is the best way to get things done. In a recent article in the Financial Times, online CEO Terri Kelly, who runs $2.3 billion textile company, WL Gore, argues that while an inclusive management approach can take longer to reach decisions, it has stonger buy-in and investment in those decisions which pays off in driving execution.
The key to successfully negotiating this style, it seems, lies in a different approach to the distribution of power. Unfinished management requires ceding control to the system or process, trusting that common commitments and values can shape norms that are as strong or stronger than those established by conventional leadership. Nor does this approach obviate or preclude individual leadership, it just requires a more delicate negotiation between management and the managed.
If the idea of management as an unfinished or open framework has a virtue over established management styles it lies in its openess to a spectrum of vision. Perhaps this creates organizations with better peripheral awareness?