Julian Birkinshaw on Management Innovation


   A summary of Julian Birkinshaw’s presentation at the HRD Business Summit:

Things have changed.  Knowledge rather than financial capital is now the scarce resource and this means we need to focus on creativity and innovation rather than replicability.  But management hasn’t changed – we need to innovate it.

A company’s management model (as opposed to its business model) may be the best place to innovate.  There’s lots of opportunity here, because most organisations don’t think about whether their management models are appropriate.  So Lehman’s management model and practices for example incentivised the employee population there to do exactly the wrong things.  They lapsed into things that didn’t work.  We need to be clearer about what our management models are and change our concepts about the way large industrial companies are organised.

We also need to pay more attention to management.  Julian calls the initiative he runs with Gary Hamel at London Business School the Management Lab (MLab) rather than the Leadership Lab for this reason.  Many organisations today are over-led but under-managed – a point Christopher McLaverty made in relation to BP’s transformation post Lord John Brown:



But management is still associated with the concept of management in a hierarchial corporation.  We need to sever this link.

Some new ideas:

  • Break away from the traditional view of alignment
  • Understand that obliquity – going round something – may be the best way to get there
  • Harnessing the wisdom of crowds
  • Building ethics and honesty back into business
  • Pursuing happiness
  • Removing clutter (eg when organisations strip out performance management systems most people figure out what they should be doing).



In Birkinshaw’s (and my) perspective, HR Directors are the people best placed to enact management innovation.  What are you going to do about it?


Some resources:


I’m going to be interviewing Julian about his new book, Management Experimentation, in mid-March, so watch out for a post on this too.





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I graduated from Imperial College, London in 1987 and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a systems development consultant. After ten years in IT, change and then HR consulting, I joined Ernst & Young as an HR Director, working firstly in the UK, and then, based in Moscow, covering the former USSR.More recently, I have worked as Head of HR Consulting for Penna and Director of Human Capital Consulting for Buck Consultants (the HR consultancy owned by ACS).


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