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Chapter 6. Choosing a Future for Your Co... > Nature of Management Practices - Pg. 107

Choosing a Future for Your Company 107 As businesses become more international, increase the IT content of their work, and add more services (if originally in manufacturing), the kinds of people who are members of a firm will be more varied. This mix in education experience will bring a richer diversity of perspectives to a business. Managers will have to find ways to leverage what appears to be a very positive trend, perhaps along with the increased reliance on research and data, to run an enterprise. We already know that there will be more process centric, IT-laden work processes, the subject of much discussion in this book. However, the significant implication here is that business management practices will continue their historic trend of becoming more disciplined and rigorous. Business pro- fessors and consultants will continue to expand the body of knowledge about management and business, which will provide tools and guidance for the overall improvement of managerial practices. Already mentioned in this book, but worth repeating in the context of trends, is the ongoing and constant evolution in the culture of organizations that will continue, a transformation that will also involve customers and an increased use of business partners. Competition continues to increase, not because of more competitors of the same kind, but rather from competition that is new, either from other industries or created because of new business models (e.g., Internet-based competitors vs. the brick-and-mortar traditionals). Finally, the basic laws of economics are not being abridged, they are just being applied differently, hence the trend of continuous change. What if you, the reader, are young in your career? What trends might you see? For one thing, all the change underway suggests that some, if not a great deal, of what you learned about the specifics of a course in graduate school will probably become obsolete, particularly scientific information. The core skills of managers will not, however; many of those are not so much taught in graduate schools as they are learned on the job. Skills taught in graduate school may not be the relevant ones our new employees need. Today, needed key skills include process management, ability to work on teams, the art of negotiation, and mastery of basic software tools. Many of these skills are not always taught in school, and thus have to be part of the on-the-job training. Much knowledge will have to be acquired after formal schooling is completed, such as how to use new medical techniques or engineering practices as they are developed. Since the number of jobs and careers one may have in a lifetime is increasing, you will need to formulate an idea about what your personal brand should be. In other words, you will have to decide what you want to be good at and known for, and dem- onstrate those qualities in the various jobs and careers before you. Managers who have worked throughout the 1980s and 1990s have learned that as their profession became more disciplined, they had to become continuous students of their trade. Many went back to graduate school in executive MBA programs, while hundreds of thousands became avid readers of business books and magazines. They are the ones that account for the fact that the number of new business books and magazines published and sold throughout the world (both on paper and online) has been increasing steadily throughout this period. So change begets more demand for information, hence the need to spend time learning new things. Given these various trends, is it possible to settle on a short list of basics that do not change? It turns out the answer is yes. Nature of Management Practices Economists and business management experts have moved toward a consensus on some essential truths. After all the studies, downsizing initiatives, publications, and fads of the last two decades of the twentieth century, some basic lessons remain to carry forward. Ironically, while much has been learned that is new and valuable, we have yet to see a major consolidation and integration of these insights. Part of the reason this has not happened is that we are still experiencing so many changes in all professions in business, including in management. But part of the reason also lies with con- sultants and professors not taking the bold step of cataloging what we know. It is possible to create a short list, and there is empirical evidence to back every line item on it. Here are a few things to start you thinking about management and leadership.