Establishing a management culture in unpredictable times

Establishing a management culture in unpredictable times 12.09.2016 - According to a survey by HR consultants Rochus Mummert, 66% of employees think that their boss is incompetent and unsuitable management material.

The Gallup Engagement Index shows that 84% of employees take a ‘work to rule’ approach to their jobs.

A study conducted by the German Ministry for Employment and Social Affairs has revealed that 77% of managers would like to see an entirely different management culture being introduced in their organisations.

Interest in management positions has declined substantially. In fact, fewer than 30% of women and 50% of men aged below 35 want to work in management.

These not particularly positive findings tie in with the results of many other surveys on the subjects of ‘employee morale’ and ‘leadership’. On closer inspection you discover a connection between the survey findings and the key economic trend of digitalisation .
Digitalisation is all about maximising efficiency and flexibility - music to economists‘ ears. It promises success, growth and prosperity. But, for employees, it means unpredictable and continuous change. They have to be prepared to adapt and respond at short notice at any time, resulting in a sense of insecurity. Things that are right one day are wrong the next. And today’s policies are out of date tomorrow. In this situation, managers face the challenging task of leading their teams in a very fast-changing work environment.

The traditional management culture, which was standard practice until the 1980s, is built on a classic hierarchy of authority. People with strong personalities assume responsibility. In return, their staff are loyal and perform their work reliably. The objective is to build on existing structures to create lasting stability.
Then, in the 1980s, economic objectives shifted to profit maximisation and efficient target achievement. As a result, managers became focused on profit making and maximising return on investment. The 1980s management culture was all about KPIs, competitiveness and management by objectives.
Since the 1990s, when profit-oriented management reached its limits, the focus shifted back from facts and figures to people. It was recognised that a collaborative management culture makes it possible to group individual strengths together in a team environment and generate excellent synergy effects.
The above-described management styles are still in use today, as are many others, all with differing degrees of success depending on the organisation, the manager and the team.

However, the fast progression of digitalisation - as well as globalisation and all the associated international challenges – has rendered traditional management styles ineffective. People in organisations need more dependability to counteract the fast pace of change and the unpredictability of their work environment. It is necessary to create an ‘atmosphere of trust’.  The 77% of managers mentioned at the outset who would like to see a different management culture being introduced in their organisations seem to have recognised this - perhaps intuitively.  They’d like to have a management culture founded on support, trust, collaboration and value orientation.

Many managers already understand what is needed in theory. Unfortunately, though, they aren’t all able to make the necessary changes because that kind of a management culture is very challenging and difficult to learn -  and leadership skills are essential.
Unfortunately, not everyone has leadership skills. This is partly due to the fact that the promotion systems in organisations are still loyalty based, focusing on professional qualifications rather than leadership skills, which aren’t being accorded the necessary relevance in promotion decisions. Even ‘born’ managers with genuine potential sometimes feel overwhelmed by the challenges they face in a ‘high efficiency’ and ‘high flexibility’ environment, but they have the personality traits that allow them to be positive, reflect, learn and lead their teams with empathy.

Many organisations have realised that they need to eliminate rigid hierarchies and adapt to the more challenging requirements. It looks very likely that the future work model will be based on project structures. A project structure makes it possible to use individual team members’ strengths in a targeted way, generate synergies and build networks, and projects also facilitate agility and flexibility.

Importantly, though, the project manager needs soft skills to be an effective leader. 
Soft skills are an important element of the IAPM’s certifications, and there is an entire section covering this topic in the PM Guide 2.0. 
Soft skills are also a selection criterion for the IAPM’s Project Manager of the Year award. 

What is the management culture like in your organisation? Let us know at

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