I wrote last month about the biggest difference between 20th and 21st Century management. I said there that management in the 20th Century was about achieving a finite goal: delivering goods and services, to make money. Management in the 21st Century by contrast is about the infinite goal of delighting customers; the firm makes money, yes, but as a consequence of the delight that it creates for customers, not as the goal.
That’s a fairly abstract account of the difference.
What does it mean in practice?
Let’s bring that down to earth with a visual embodiment of it.
A 20th Century artifact: The DVD controller
Let’s take an artifact that embodies the whole approach of 20th Century management: a DVD controller. It has 54 buttons, most of them with inscrutable labels like “Angle”, “Skip” and “Shuttle”. There are several buttons labeled “Video”. It has no screen, that might enlighten me what these buttons might mean. It is big and clunky and doesn’t fit easily within my hand. It is complicated. It is accompanied by a 100 page manual; if I had studied that manual, I might understand the DVD controller. But I haven’t and so I don’t. I can barely use it to carry out the simplest functions of my DVD player. It has scores of other functions that I don’t know how to use. It does not delight me.
Objectively, it may be a high quality device. I am sure that the scores of functions that some engineering department has built into it would all work perfectly, if I knew how to use it. The device is the result of a long list of specifications of all the things that the controller is supposed to do. What engineering department omitted to do was to think through how an average user like myself would experience the device and make it more usable for me. By not doing, they have ended up frustrating me, rather than delighting me.
A 21st Century artifact: The iPod
Compare that to an iconic 21st Century artifact: an iPod. It is small and sleek with only four buttons and a dial. It has a screen to guide me in using those four buttons to navigate through a large number of functions, which are focused on the main thing that I want an mp3 player for: the play music. The more complicated functions are there, but they are tucked away in menus where I can find them when I need to, but set up in such a way that they they don’t get in the way of the everyday controls that I need.
Objectively, an iPod may be complicated with scores of controls, but subjectively, it feels simple and easy to use. I don’t need a 100 page manual to use it. That’s because the people designing have thought about my needs as a user and designed the device so that it is easy for me to find the controls that I need when I need them. Instead of being frustrated, I am delighted.
“More is less!” vs. “Less is more!”
The 20th Century artifact is the product of “More is less” thinking. “We can increase the quality of the DVD controller by adding more and more functions to it so that it becomes practically unusuable.” By offering more we get less.
The 21st Century artifact is the product of “Less is more” thinking. “We focus the device on the few things that the user really wants and needs.” By offering less, we get more and arrive at our goal: client delight.
To learn more about the difference between traditional and radical management, go here: