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In a changing world, are managerial positions safe?

Many jobs will disappear in the coming years. Are managerial positions safe?

We would expect a taxi company to own cars, a media company to create content, a retailer to carry inventory and a hotel to own or manage real estate. We all know this is not the case anymore thanks to the creative use of disruptive innovation driven by technology, largely information technology.

Many, or most, of future jobs are yet to be invented. On the other hand, many jobs are expected to disappear soon. Truck and taxi drivers are designated as early victims but the list is long and growing as the impact of AI and robots become more evident.

Are managers jobs safe? What if the managerial function  itself is to fall victim of disruptive change, and one day we will see organizations managed without managers? Sounds crazy? Only 10 years ago a driver-less car on a street could only have been a prank.

Even if things will not evolve so dramatically, there are  three trends that push toward disruptive change in the managerial function:

  1. Social. There is a growing need for independence, meaning, purpose and happiness at the workplace, in particular among the younger generations. Hierarchies and bosses are hardly considered conducive to well-being at work, and flexibility from both employers and employees make traditional hierarchical structures hard to maintain.

  2. Economic. Managerial layers are expensive and inefficient ( see the Penrose effect). Companies have been steadily reducing management and control layers for decades.

  3. Technological. Since several years notorious examples like Semco, Buurtzorg or Favi have showcased alternative managerial models. New “managerial technologies”, like Holacracy, offer standardized approaches that make the transition to a flat organization replicable independently from the anecdotal experience of a visionary manager.  Information technology in the form of pervasive networks, artificial intelligence and blockchain can support this change and make different organizational models possible.

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