Wiki Management

A Revolutionary New Model for a Rapidly Changing and Collaborative World

 Wiki Management

Author: Rod Collins
Pub Date: November 2013
Print Edition: $25.00
Print ISBN: 9780814433089
Page Count: 240
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814433096

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Today’s managers face a difficult and unprecedented challenge: The world

is changing much faster than their organizations. Every industry, without

exception, has been overtaken by an accelerating pace of change that

shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. In a business world of increasing

uncertainty, the one clear certainty is that the pace of change is only

going to get faster.

As managers struggle to keep pace with a fast-forward world, they are

increasingly becoming aware of a very troubling problem. They are discovering

that methods and practices that have always delivered predictable

results aren’t working anymore. Forecasts are suddenly unreliable as new

disruptive technologies radically reshape markets. Cutting costs does not

necessarily result in improved efficiencies and productivity. Proven analytical

methods are now too slow and cumbersome to keep up with a fastchanging

world. And exerting more control seems to drive companies out

of control—and sometimes out of business. In a world where change is

constant and longstanding rules don’t seem to work anymore, it’s not

surprising that many managers feel overwhelmed by what appears to be a

completely unmanageable state of affairs.

At the same time, there is a small but growing group of vanguard

companies that is thriving in this time of great change. While most companies

have had to trim their sails to weather the storm of the Great Recession,

this small group has experienced relatively smooth sailing with

steady growth, increasing profits, and the creation of new jobs. The vanguard

group, composed of companies that we love engaging with as consumers,

includes Amazon, Google, Threadless, Valve, Whole Foods, and

Zappos, among others. What separates these vanguard companies from

their traditional counterparts is that their managers understand a fastchanging

world is not necessarily unmanageable—it just needs to be

managed differently. That’s because, with the rapid emergence of the

Digital Age, we suddenly find ourselves in a new world with a completely

different set of rules. The managers of the vanguard companies are thriving

because they have mastered these new rules, and in so doing, they have

completely overhauled the fundamental disciplines of business management.

While most of us are aware of the much-publicized successes of these

vanguard companies, few of us are familiar with how they achieve their

extraordinary performance. We have a vague notion that they do things a

little differently, but chances are most of us would be surprised at just how

differently the leaders of these companies manage their businesses. In fact,

if we spent a week inside one of these innovative enterprises, most of us

probably would walk away puzzled at how they could be so successful

when we didn’t see anything that remotely resembled management.

For most of us, management is about business plans, organization

charts, bosses, formal meetings, policies, procedures, tasks, and reports.

These are the common practices of the top-down hierarchical structures

that have defined the context of management for well over a century.

These practices are the embodiment of a fundamental set of disciplines

that have served as the framework for leading and managing large orga-

nizations. This framework dates back to the late nineteenth century, when

mass production was radically transforming the ways people worked and

the major challenge for managers was how to effectively coordinate the

tasks and activities of the large numbers of workers in their new factories.

Management, as most of us know it, was invented to guide business

leaders in building and preserving sustainable business models and maintaining

highly efficient operations. Its disciplines were designed to support

the core values of top-down hierarchical structures: planning, control, and

efficiency. Accordingly, in the command-and-control management model,

the fundamental work of the manager is to plan and control, and productivity

is synonymous with efficiency.

The managers of the vanguard companies, however, loathe commandand-

control management. In fact, they are quite proactive in making sure

that as their organizations grow, they do not inadvertently slip into traditional

management practices. Instead, they have created a different management

model that is based on a completely different set of fundamental

disciplines. This alternative model is designed for adapting and innovating

rather than preserving and maintaining. Its disciplines support the

prime values of learning, collaboration, and innovation. Thus, the fundamental

work of the manager is not to plan and control but rather to be the

catalyst for collective learning and collaboration. And productivity is seen

more as a function of innovation than efficiency.

The managers of the vanguard companies see little value in making

traditional business models faster or less expensive. The real value is in

creating the new business model that will render the old model obsolete.

That’s why, when the vanguard managers think about productivity, they

focus on value rather than cost. When it comes to improving the bottom

line, creating value is far more efficient than cutting costs.

This book is about the emerging management model used by the vanguard

companies to make sure that their organizations are changing as

quickly as the world around them. We call this new model “Wiki Management.”

Wiki is the Hawaiian word for “quick” or “fast,” and it is an

appropriate appellation for a set of management disciplines designed to

help managers keep pace with accelerating change. In the chapters ahead,

we will describe the five specific disciplines that the vanguard companies

share in common, and we will outline fifty concrete practices that they use

to drive their extraordinary performance. As you read through the book

and become familiar with the new management model, please keep an

open mind because many of these practices will feel counterintuitive,

some will seem heretical, and most will probably challenge your basic assumptions

about what managers do and what management is.

Although there is some discussion of the theory that serves as the foundation

for the new management model, the bulk of the book is devoted to

stories and practices. When managers are ready to think and act differently,

real stories of success and actual practices that work are more valuable

than abstract theory. Some of the stories and practices come from the

vanguard companies referenced above, while others reflect my own experiences

as a manager building a Wiki Management business unit inside a

larger, traditional enterprise, and how we used many of the practices to

quickly and successfully turn around a business that had endured two

decades of low growth and low performance.

In our case, we learned the disciplines of Wiki Management out of

necessity when we realized that the prime enabler of our poor performance

was our adherence to a traditional management model that no longer

worked. Learning new ways of managing wasn’t easy because we

needed to readjust the deeply held beliefs we had about what managers do

and what management is. However, if we were going to improve our performance,

we knew we had to change, regardless of how unfamiliar or

counterintuitive managing differently might feel. Our venture into Wiki

Management transformed us into a highly effective management team

and enabled us to realize the single largest five-year growth period in the

fifty-three-year history of our business unit. In embracing the new management

model, we didn’t just turn the business around; like so many of

the vanguard companies, we made a leap to extraordinary performance.

The primary message of this book is simple and, hopefully, obvious: A

nineteenth-century management model is unsustainable in a twenty-firstcentury

world. As the pace of change continues to accelerate, it is unrealistic

to believe that a century-old management model will somehow

endure while the rest of the world is reshaped by the technologies of the

Digital Age. We live in a new world with new rules, and the old rules are

quickly becoming obsolete. That’s why they’re not working anymore.

As you approach this book, be prepared to be surprised because everything

you have believed about the way we work and the work we do is

about to dramatically change. In the chapters ahead, you will discover a

very different business world where leaders are facilitators, workers are

highly involved in shaping strategic thinking, and business processes are

designed around what’s most important to customers. You will become

familiar with a new management vocabulary that describes the innovative

tools of twenty-first-century business: serendipity, emergence, collective

intelligence, shared understanding, simple rules, and self-organization.

But most importantly, you will have at your disposal a set of fifty specific

practices that you can use to master the unprecedented challenges of our

fast-changing world. While fifty practices may sound like a lot, you’ll find

that you will be able to pick out those that are best suited to your particular

business or situation. I hope that you will find much value in these

pages and will commit to discovering and applying the incredible power

of the disciplines and the practices of Wiki Management so you too can

make a leap to extraordinary performance.

Rod Collins

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