A. Bad. Idea. Period.

The standard conception of leadership and management (wish I remember where I heard it) is that leaders are the people who climb the tree to point the group in the right direction, while managers are the ones who organize the workers to most efficiently cut the road through the forest. A serviceable enough differentiation between the roles of leadership and management. And I think it works very well as a model in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century industry. But I think it’s too top-heavy for knowledge based industry.

This isn’t some argument for generational or era exceptionalism. That’s fodder for magazines that sell at the grocery checkout. But while I think there’s something to the idea that all work has a “knowledge work component” (link, where’s the link?), knowledge based companies and industries are built on many, many, many unexposed specializations, relationships, and ways of doing work. More than you will find in a non-knowledge centric business. Leaders should be careful about directing too greatly the troops in the forest because its the troops on the ground who have a better idea of the surroundings than the guy up in the treetops.

This is one of the problems with deploying new systems to “make people work better!” and to “exponentially increase collaboration!” One company might follow the leader’s vision to a land of Web 2.0 salvation only to hear a loud thud. Another might set up a few tools off handedly to suddenly find everyone using them to great delight. Who knows? Brief aside, why is it that you can’t get business and government leaders who push down their central visions and plans to defend command and control economies?

Might companies take advantage of what their own people know when undertaking business decisions?