This book presents a case for questioning, and effectively abolishing, hierarchical structures in business and moving into a “post-management area”. (The book is more than that. It is also a piece of edutainment, giving the author’s personal mix of insights and project experiences, circling around the topic of why management often is so bad. To a very limited extent it may even be read as a how-to manual for wannabe “Leaders-from-behind” – as the subtitle suggests – but I guess this was more the editor trying to widen the addressable market.)
Abolishing management might sound radical at first, but Strathausen presents good logic and reasoning, showing that “management” is a very limited paradigm, separating work execution from control, focusing the actual “workers” away from pleasing clients and toward pleasing their bosses, creating siloes, inefficiencies and stagnation, where flexibility, invention and dynamic adaptation to customer needs are really needed.
How revolutionary is this book? I am not sure. The storytelling, interwoven with the main text, features a typical matrix-type task manager (in this case a global account manager) who needs to lead people not reporting to him and pursuing clearly their own interests. The story feels real, and it shows that “situational leadership” as advocated by Strathausen, already takes place in many organizations. We are already there.
But the book does give this informal leadership a language and a reference, when in most cases today the informal leadership is hidden and treated as an exception, and the good old hierarchical organization chart is visible, seen as necessity and norm.
Maybe – depending on industry and type of work – this should actually be turned around and what are now the bosses should be seen as nothing more than an HR function. Now that would be revolutionary indeed.
To get started thinking about these questions, Strathausen’s book is a great contribution and valuable to all who want to set up and work in the agile and customer-driven business organizations of the future.
Full disclosure: I have known Roger for about 15 years, and have worked with him on various projects (I even remember some of the examples he used in the book). He is the type of thinker who can step back from a specific request to understand the full context, and he is the type of worker to then dig deep into the task at hand and craft results guided by his insights.