Moon shots for management

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HBR at Large
BY GARY HAMEL

Moon Shots for Management
What great challenges must we tackle to reinvent management and make it more relevant to a volatile world?
MANAGEMENT IS UNDOUBTEDLY one of humankind’s most important inventions. For more than a hundred years, advances in management – the structures, processes, and techniques used to compound human effort – have helped to power economicprogress. Problem is, most of the fundamental breakthroughs in management occurred decades ago. Work flow design, annual budgeting, return-oninvestment analysis, project management, divisionalization, brand management – these and a host of other indispensable tools have been around since the early 1900s. In fact, the foundations of “modern” management were laid by people like Daniel McCallum,Frederick Taylor, and Henry Ford, all of whom were born before the end of the American Civil War in 1865.

The evolution of management has traced a classic S-curve. After a fast start in the early twentieth century, the pace of innovation gradually decelerated and in recent years has slowed to a crawl. Management, like the combustion engine, is a mature technology that must now be reinvented for a newage. With this in mind, a group of scholars and business leaders assembled in May 2008 to lay out a road map for reinventing management. (For a list of attendees, see the sidebar “Building an Agenda for Management Innovation.”) The group’s immediate goal was to create a roster of makeor-break challenges – management moon shots – that would focus the energies of management innovators everywhere.The participants were inspired in part by the U.S. National Academy

Jonathan Bartlett

hbr.org

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February 2009

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Harvard Business Review 91

HBR at Large Moon Shots for Management

of Engineering, which recently proposed 14 grand engineering challenges – such as reverse engineering the human brain, advancing health informatics, and developing methods for carbon sequestration –for the twenty-first century (to see the full list, go to engineeringchallenges. org). Why, we wondered, shouldn’t managers and management scholars commit to equally ambitious goals?

IDEA IN BRIEF


“Modern” management, much of which dates back to the late nineteenth century, has reached the limits of improvement. To lay out a road map for reinvention, a group of scholars and CEOs hascreated 25 ambitious challenges. Unless management innovators tackle those issues, companies will be unable to cope with tomorrow’s volatile world.

ask “Has anybody else done this?” than “Isn’t this worth trying?” What’s needed are daring goals that will motivate a search for radical new ways of mobilizing and organizing human capabilities.





New Realities, New Imperatives Although eachof us had our own particular frustrations with managementas-usual, one belief united us: Equipping organizations to tackle the future would require a management revolution no less momentous than the one that spawned modern industry. Management was originally invented to solve two problems: the first – getting semiskilled employees to perform repetitive activities competently, diligently, andefficiently; the second – coordinating those efforts in ways that enabled complex goods and services to be produced in large quantities. In a nutshell, the problems were efficiency and scale, and the solution was bureaucracy, with its hierarchical structure, cascading goals, precise role definitions, and elaborate rules and procedures. Managers today face a new set of problems, products of a volatile andunforgiving environment. Some of the most critical: How in an age of rapid change do you create organizations that are as adaptable and resilient as they are focused and efficient? How in a world where the winds of creative destruction blow at gale force can a company innovate quickly and boldly enough to stay relevant and profitable? How in a creative economy where entrepreneurial genius is the...
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