Command & Control vs Collaborative

I have struggled with this topic for quite some time. I have pretty much worked in 3 organizations all my life (2 large ones – US Army and Intel; 1 small – Myron’s Service Center).  No one will argue that the military is anything but command and control… Oh, don’t get me wrong there is some collaborative work going on, but in the heat of the battle – command and control wins. As long as the order is lawful, the simple answer is to carry it out. I remember my drill instructor say, “If I say jump, you ask how high. Got it?”. That seems to wrap it up.

I wrestle with the notion of when is it time to skip the command & control and move towards a move collaborative approach. When you look back – command and control seemed to work well, when the boss knew more or had more access to information. Those times are changing. Information has become available to just about everyone, thanks to the information revolution. Teams today are more globally dispersed – where it used to be the company (where most groups acted independently) that was global. Things need to change – or maybe – things are forcing the change. In order for me to get my work done, I have to be more collaborative than ever before. I have to be willing to give up some command & control. What makes me think I can do it better or faster?

What are helping drive these changes?

  • Enterprise 2.0 technologies – Speed of communications and collaboration. Information is available and shared with all.
  • People – are demanding these tools. Technology is a funny thing, the more comfortable you are growing up with it, the more you demand when you get older. I am afraid that I am an exception to the rule. But, when I look at the workforce today, this is a definite trend.
  • Micro-managing scares folks away – we all know the workplace studies that show that people leave because of their boss more so than their job. I have come across this a couple of times in my career. I have left very good positions that I loved doing, because the person that I reported to was a micro-manager. I have stayed in terrible positions because I have worked for some amazing people (the job, I can make better).
  • Workforce is more global – For me, this is extremely true. I have people that I work with everyday – and only one of them sits in the same general physical location as I. In order to keep everything going – we have to use these tools. We have to be willing to make it fit within our normal work flow.

Will large established corporate culture change overnight? Will it happen at all? Overnight, no way. Resistance is always going to be there. Giving up command & control is not easy. It takes people to change. Moving their cheese is not a good thing, at least not to them. The shift has to happen. Many small to medium size companies are doing it and finding some great results within innovation and great places to work. When that happens – all the great people will come running. So, the big ones have to shift or stay the course on the path that they are on. That path does lead to a slow and painful death – I believe folks have some examples they could share on that…

Thoughts?