Shifting Roles of Management in Society

Increasing Pace of Change

Overview

The pace of change in management has been accelerating, thus increasing the need for lifelong learning.

In business, change is no longer a constant, its pace is accelerating. Market conditions change faster than ever before, forcing companies to adapt swiftly and continuously. Rates of new product introduction and adoption, for example, are speeding up. According to LBS professor Rita McGrath, “innovations introduced more recently are being adopted more quickly. By analogy, firms with competitive advantages in those areas will need to move faster to capture those opportunities that present themselves”. The need for rapid adaptation applies not only to products and services but also to strategies, management practices, and structures.

It is not just that the pace of change is accelerating; organizations and managers now work in worlds that are increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous—forming the popular acronym VUCA, which military organizations first used to describe their operating environment. In a VUCA world, things change fast but not in predicable ways, and the causes and consequences of change are unclear and difficult to ascertain.

This type of environment encourages managers to learn quickly and continuously from their own experiences, an idea espoused by McGill professor Henry Mintzberg and others, who question whether management can be learned, and taught, without deep connections to practice. He argues that while it is possible to learn about business in the classroom, learning how to manage requires being with other managers. And he doubts whether aspiring managers can learn much from case studies, which are rendered obsolete quickly in today’s rapidly changing environment.

Related Resources

Reaching Working Professionals in Emerging Economies
Reaching Working Professionals in Emerging Economies
Lin Zhou, dean of the Antai College of Economics and Management at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, discusses strategies for meeting the programming needs of working professional in emerging economies.

The Pace of Technology Adoption is Speeding Up
Innovations introduced more recently are being adopted more quickly. By analogy, firms with competitive advantages in those areas will need to move faster to capture those opportunities that present themselves.

You Can’t Create A Leader In A Classroom
Henry Mintzberg is a teacher of business strategy who has been vocally critical of the current offerings of most business schools. This article in Fast Company provides an overview of his stance.


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