Lateral management: Raising the awareness about future possibilities

Lateral management: Raising the awareness about future possibilities

Innovative companies around the world are looking for new organisational models. The solution is: lateral management – a model suited to the digital economy and its requirements. Lateral management means allowing a diversity of objectives and processes, making organisations more flexible, focusing on the creativity of individuals and small groups and in particular: raising the awareness about future possibilities. Because if the principle of individual responsibility is to be established in organisations on a sustainable basis, the management style needs tochange as well.

What will managers and people in a future digital world be exposed to? Does it require a new human concept? In 1961 the US psychologist Douglas McGregor shocked the business world, which was still based on an authoritarian hierarchy, with his “Y theory”. This human concept says that people are essentially capable of self organisation and motivation. And that they like to take decisions autonomously. At Procter & Gamble some of his students implemented his ideas successfully in the 1960s. However, the company’s managers were not allowed to tell anyone how successful and productive autonomous structures in the company actually were. This competitive advantage should not be lost. Y worked.

Managers value strengths, not weaknesses

Martin Seligman spent two decades developing a model of positive psychology (see “New Work und die Psychologie” by Markus Väth in Wirtschaftspsychologie aktuell, 2/2016). It is based on the idea of not asking what makes a person sick but looking at what keeps a person healthy and how he/she can develop. The implication of his ideas is that managers value people by their strengths – not by their weaknesses. He has also influenced modern concepts such as occupational health management and new work as well as research on flow and happiness in organisations.

In the 1990s Aaron Antonovsky developed salutogenesis (see: “Salutogenesis: Unraveling the Mystery of Health” by Aaron Antonovsky, DGVT, 1997). Antonovsky held that people are healthy when:

1. They understand the world they live in (comprehensibility)
2. They have a sense of significance and purpose (meaningfulness)
3. They feel that the world is workable and can be influenced (manageability).

In our culture-changing projects we frequently work with the salutogenesis concept. This is because digitalisation entails a significant change in the personal biography of many people. And that requires managers who create a lateral environment which is comprehensible to people, which makes sense to them and in which they can act. For some companies these ideas are really associated with a new human concept.