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By Monica E. Oss

December 21, 2011

As always, any time we run a piece that questions the role of managers, we get very interesting responses. Last week was no exception. I covered the very provocative piece by Gary Hamel that was published in the Harvard Business Review, First, Let’s Fire All the Managers, in our piece, Should You “Eliminate” Your Managers? all members. The point I made was that the key may be not to eliminate managers, but to redefine the role of managers in this changing market. But Gary Hamel’s premise (and my take on his premise) was not particularly well received by you, our readers.

One OPEN MINDS Circle reader compared the act of eliminating managers and replacing it with “mission driven employees” with chaos. He wrote, “Eliminating all managers and relying upon self accountability is a quick road to organization chaos and failure; however, rather than eliminating managers there is a desperate need to have better leaders in place. Vision, inspiration, and knowledge-based leadership that mentors the next crop of managers are almost extinct.”

This call for more “vision and inspiration” reflects the time of change in our field and the need for less transactional leadership and more transformational leadership. (If these are terms that you are not familiar with, be sure to check out our 2011 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Institute Presentations, as well as Executive Leadership in Times of Organizational Change: The Context of Battle as a Leadership Laboratory – Case Studies in Best Practice Management and Do You Know How to Command Your Troops? Creating & Leading a Team in Times of Change all members).

Another reader spoke about both the quality of managers and the very difficult process of creating “empowerment” within the ranks. He wrote, “Dr. Hamel’s view that management is the ‘least efficient activity in an organization’ is true within organizations that are not staffed with effective and efficient managers who possess the knowledge and experience in their company’s product to make it successful. His statement that organizations were probably not built around the principles of self-management is also a statement that can be argued (did he ever hear of quality circles?)…I was part of a team that tried to implement the quality circle’s concept knowing full well that…it would be very difficult to manage a company on the hopes that its staff would be able to make all of the right decisions.”

Whatever your take on the issue of the role of managers, I would like to share my take on the “new normal” health and human service environment —and what it means for managers.

I think the role of managers is changing with a need for more “transformational” attributes in managers today. The challenge is that most management teams today are composed largely of clinical professionals who were attracted to the field at a time when the manager’s role wasn’t to facilitate change, but to maintain order and skills (see Weeding Out the “Clinicians in Managers’ Clothing” all members). How your organization identifies the executive team competency that you need for success now and in the future (which may be very different) and how you recruit and retain those managers will likely determine whether your organization survives or thrives in the years ahead.

If you have any additional thoughts, please e-mail me at or send me a tweet @monicaoss.


Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS

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