Warren Bennis in his book of the same title, claims that managing people is like herding cats. Of course, as Bennis points out, Cats won’t allow themselves to be herded - they can however, be persuaded, influenced and led toward a common purpose. The key message here is that management is becoming less relevant in the new organisational order, where increased diversity, autonomy and cross boundary work requires a much larger focus upon leadership, conflict resolution and integrative capabilities.
With increased diversity and more autonomy in the new boundary less, networked organisational form, there is a higher propensity for members to drift off like cats in pursuit of their own self interests – there is also a higher risk of conflict within the new organisation, as increased diversity may translate to clashing identity values.
The highlight on bullying in the workplace at the moment highlights organisational environments that are ripe for conflict, where people may increasingly seek to compete with and dominate others to satisfy their own interests and values. Cat herding is not a productive pastime in the organisation, just as old management mindsets are not suited to the new way of organising – it is likely to lead to higher costs of conflict and inertia in the organisation. So where does that leave us?
It is becoming more obvious that the development of leadership, negotiation and collaboration as core organisational competencies will be required for organisations to avoid the high costs of conflict and maximise collaborative advantage for future success. Perhaps it timely for a little self reflection – am I a cat herder or leader? Does my organisation have more cat herders than leaders? How can we change the situation?
To a lighter moment thanks to the EDS advertisement, ‘Herding Cats’ that promotes the importance of EDS ‘collaboration tools’ to move the workforce toward a common purpose – the advertisement may be viewed on youtube - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SmgLtg1Izw
In future blogs we will discuss approaches that may shifting from herding cats and conflict towards collaboration. Your comments are invited!