Magazine article New Zealand Management

Into the New Millennium: People Not Process

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Into the New Millennium: People Not Process

Article excerpt

By the first few years of the 2000s, the appeal of the autocratic manager was finally fading. Fads such as the balanced scorecard were out and work/life balance, corporate social responsibility, e-business, e-managing and anything else beginning with the letter 'e' were in. As Ian F Grant reports in his eighth and final article in our series on 50 years of Management in New Zealand, the age of leadership and values had finally arrived.

By 2000 a picture had emerged, still a little fuzzy around the edges, of the role managers and management would play in the early years of the new century. In general terms, managers were increasingly preoccupied with people rather than process and the command-and-control approach to managing had moved, with some bumps along the way, to the realisation that cooperation was a more fruitful approach.

In Management, the 'gee-whiz' accounts of how technology was going to transform everything in and out of sight, had been replaced with nuts and bolts stories about how not to get swamped by emails and at what point a company should invest in its own website.

But there was no escaping the 'e' word and the succession of articles about e-commerce, e-business, e-managing, e-marketing and e-learning. It was heady stuff, with a November 2000 feature proclaiming: "E-business is about integrating and streamlining your entire business sales and marketing, purchasing and supply relationships, customer service, finance and HR management."

In the midst of this technologically charged atmosphere Waymark Solutions managing director David Parmenter lamented, in February 2001, the demise of the morning tea break. "Looking back, I recall some interesting characteristics of this ritual. Older staff had been around long enough to know 'just about everything' and were treated as mentors; staff morale Advertisers were s was high, with a real team spirit. Mondays were full of weekend stories; and everybody seemed to know what was going on."

In February 1999 Management had become 'The Leaders' Magazine' and, during the first four years of the new millennium, leadership--the lack of it, the need for it, how and where to find it, and whether its attributes were god-given or could be learned--was the stuff of numerous articles offering a range of answers, perspectives, optimism and gloom. The transactional versus transformational leadership debate was waged vigorously, with the latter clearly more in tune with the times. It even got to the point where, in February 2003, there was a serious discussion of 'Leaders as Servants'. As the article said: "Servant leadership relies primarily on building competence in relationships with people who, together with the leader, produce the results ... Together they will continually reach for both personal and organisational potential."

Or, as management consultant Kate Frykberg suggested in February 2004, effective business leadership was quite straightforward, anatomically speaking. "Perhaps it is as simple as having a warm heart, a cool head, and a hard nose."

Naturally, a preoccupation with leadership means a focus on CEOs--how they got there, why some stay too long, why some head off overseas too soon, how they make the tough decisions.

Mark Story, interviewing 10 New Zealand business leaders, wrote in June 2003: "... They argue that any business leader who can make significant people-related decisions, directly impacting people's livelihoods, and not be personally affected is unlikely to be a well-rounded individual. As such, he or she probably shouldn't be charged with steering the ship. Contrary to popular perception, they believe that common sense, intuition born of experience and balance, not ruthlessness and a thick skin, equip leaders best to make tough decisions."

An article in August 2003 asked why top talent was in such short supply and proffered some answers: "If the increasing complexities involved with being in the CEO's seat weren't enough to rub some of the gloss off the top job, then increased public/shareholder scrutiny might. …

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