How a big company can run fast, like a startup — Elaine Chen

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Elaine Chen

From Xconomy

What does the word “startup” mean to you?

Many words can come to mind: new, exciting, experimental, small, lean, agile, fast. To me, “startup” mostly makes me think of “agile” and “fast.”

In an early stage startup, everybody is focused on the same thing. People are passionate, enthusiastic, hungry for an opportunity to change the world, and they will do whatever it takes to get things done. At a headcount of 5-10 people, coordination comes naturally. There are no legacy processes to slow things down. Without existing customers, the team is free to modify their products and services as they learn more. There is also a shared sense of urgency. So they run fast: because it’s fun, because they can, and because they have to.

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MIT fuses design and management with new master track — Matthew Kressy

Matt Kressy, Director, Integrated Design and Management master’s degree track

From Business Because

When you launch a new master’s degree track at a place like MIT, you get asked a lot of questions. The most common ones I get are: what do you want students to get out of the Integrated Design & Management (IDM) program? How did it get started? How does it work? And what kinds of students are you looking for?

I want to give designers a voice. Traditionally, designers are not well versed in the languages of engineering and business. They’re great at inventing and creating, but they’re generally not good at explaining how those creations could be profitable or feasible. As a result, business and engineering decisions get made without the benefit of design sensibilities and insights.

I want to empower designers to speak up and provide them with the management tools to more effectively communicate their vision. My hope is that this program helps designers demonstrate that great design can be a competitive advantage.

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Management Goes Mobile — Carl Stjernfeldt

MIT Sloan Sr. Lecturer Carl Stjernfeldt

It’s an old business rubric:  What gets measured, gets managed.

In the age of big data, the very basic set of measurements that managers used to rely on is expanding to a robust set of 24/7 sensor inputs from factory floors to off-shore petroleum platforms – all of it accessible across a wide variety of mobile devices to employees at many levels.

Management is now able to access data from varied locations, crunch it at headquarters and then return the enhanced data to managers out in the field, on the factory floor or on the oil fields. These new, more robust data sets will allow managers to make better decisions in a shorter amount of time than ever before. For companies in complex industries, such as Shell where I work, the potential for increased performance, efficiency and safety is enormous. Read More »

How to get employees to be more entrepreneurial — Deborah Ancona

MIT Sloan Prof. Deborah Ancona

MIT Sloan Prof. Deborah Ancona

From Fortune

Organizational change has never been easy, but in the past it was a little more straightforward. Fifty years ago, companies followed a basic blueprint. They had heroic leaders — a CEO and an elite top layer of management — who had tremendous authority and made all the important decisions. When they wanted to make a change, they set a direction and it cascaded down through the firm.

Today things are different. As companies compete more on speed, agility, and innovation, decision-making needs to get pushed down. Sure, there remain some old-school companies that rely solely on top-down leadership. But in an increasing number of firms, leadership is shared across the organization, often in teams. Command and control is out; collaboration and teamwork are in.

These are positive developments, but they don’t make organizational change any easier to pull off. The key for managers is to create an environment where teams and individuals — even those lower in the organization — have the latitude and autonomy to recommend and try out new ideas, be it a new environmental initiative, a new technology, or a way to seize some new opportunity in a different market. The goal is an entrepreneurial workforce at all levels of the company. Here are some ways to achieve that:

Think beyond the official job title.

Managers tend to put employees into neat little boxes according to their place on the corporate organizational chart. But these boxes make it hard for someone lower down in the organization, without an official title, to vet and test a new idea. There’s a prevailing attitude of: “We need a formal manager to do that.” To combat that tendency when assigning people to projects, consider who has the passion, knowledge, and networks to succeed — independent of that person’s title. If this is not politically possible, then think about creating two-person teams or small groups that include people with the necessary expertise.

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Advice for middle managers (and for those who manage them) — Paul Osterman

MIT Sloan Prof. Paul Osterman

MIT Sloan Prof. Paul Osterman

From The Smart Manager (India)

When people talk about middle managers, certain characterizations inevitably come to mind: gray-suited corporate drones bitter about being relegated to the sidelines of corporate power; middling bosses who don’t particularly care for their subordinates; overlooked paper-pushers eager to clock out at the end of the day.

None of these depictions are flattering; none of them are accurate either. According to my latest research, which involved analyzing over thirty years’ worth of employment data and conducting many interviews with mid-level managers and senior leaders across dozens of companies, middle managers are central, indeed crucial, to an organization’s success. My research shows that middle managers are, for the most part, thoughtful, strategically-minded individuals who have a strong commitment to their jobs, are highly engaged with their colleagues, and gain real pleasure from their day-to-day work.

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