Essential Management Skill in the Digital Era

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Predictions about the future of business sound very much like what we might expect to see in a science fiction movie from Hollywood.

We might not realize this science fiction world of work in the next few years, but there is little doubt that the role of manager and tactics for managing and leading will be changing in the coming era. There are some essential skills any manager interested in remaining viable and valuable should have.

Changes Already Taking Place

  • Communication technologies are continuing to advance enabling high quality, real-time engagement with distributed teams and communities
  • Big Data is becoming prevalent in every aspect of a business. It is the large-scale gathering of information stored in massive data warehouses. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning platforms are being used in procurement, marketing, and financial technologies along with many other business applications
  • Routine work is increasingly being automated
  • Open source style communities are solving problems, sharing ideas and giving feedback
  • Projects are being recognized as the engines of creation and project management practices will expand to take advantage of the new tools for communication, monitoring, reporting, and collaboration
  • The routine work of monitoring discrete tasks are becoming automated
  • Project team members and the project manager are beginning to be free to focus on problem-solving and coordination
  • Virtual teams have become a desired tool based on the advancements in communication technologies and reduced costs
  • Decision-making has become data-driven
  • Deliveries are being made by driver-less cars, trucks, and drones 

Looking to the Future

  • Organizations may flatten and spread horizontally, with advancement based on the ability to contribute value and less on the ability to do more at a higher level
  • The role of the manager will be redefined
  • Work may be monitored and controlled by increasingly intelligent machines and fewer human workers
  • Drawing upon advanced artificial intelligence algorithms and vast quantities of real-time big data, these machines will select strategies, tailor offerings, and monitor fulfillment without human intervention
  • Factories will be operated via remote control
  • Problems will be resolved before they happen based on complicated predictive analytics engines, which draw real-time input from a vast array of sensors

A Role in Transition

The above points are exciting to ponder, yet for most of us, this future is somewhere over the horizon. Not every firm will adopt technology at the pace of a firm born of digital DNA.

Most organizations will evolve at the speed of their industries and competition, with outside forces ultimately governing that speed. And in all of this excitement, turmoil, and advancement, managers will still be managing.

Yet, those striving to remain relevant, particularly individuals at the front-end of their careers, must work deliberately at developing the skills that fit with the trends that will shape tomorrow. There are at least four critical areas where managers must invest in growing and tuning their skills. 

Essential Management Skills

Technical Agility. Even formerly creative domains such as marketing are increasingly dominated by quantitative-focused technologists. There is no room for avoiding technology.

Seek every opportunity in your work life to gain training on the latest programs and applications. Work in your personal life to understand and participate in the latest technological trends.

Results Only. Quality of work is becoming increasingly important. Managers are going to have to focus on workplace environments that encourage employees to produce quality work. Quantity of time spent working is a concept of the past.

Employers will want to start rewarding employees for their results, not their time. Managers are going to be at the forefront of this fight for results, motivating employees to give 100% all the time.

Emotional Awareness. Emotional intelligence is a newcomer on the block of managerial psychology. Generally speaking, there are three areas of emotional intelligence—awareness of your emotions, how to harness them, and then managing your emotions to develop empathy for others.

Studies are beginning to show that people respond better to leaders with higher emotional intelligence, or at least higher emotional awareness.

Networking Agility. As organizations compress, the focus of work will be horizontal and not vertical within a function. Managers will increasingly be called upon to organize temporary coalitions to seize emerging opportunities and squash fast-moving threats.

Additionally, as projects take on increasing significance, answers to key issues will reside somewhere outside of the traditional expert. Effective solutions will need a large network that can tap into the right resources at the right time.