A cooperative team versus a collaborative team
Let's stop to think for a moment. Let's consider the implications for a managed team approach in light of eighteen of the initial twenty-four assumptions described in the introduction.
Assumption 2) Nobody knows all the answers.
Assumption 3) The environment of the Internet and the World Wide Web is beyond your or anyone else's ability to be able to understand it completely.
Assumption 4) Everyone is occasionally unreliable.
Assumption 7) Whatever you know, there are many more important things that you ought to know but don't.
Assumption 8) Nobody is going to co-operate with you unless they see there is something worthwhile in it for them.
Assumption 9) Whatever you know, somebody knows it better
Assumption 12) Whatever you do there are thousands of others trying to do the same thing at the same time.
Assumption 13) Sudden and dramatic changes will occur constantly.
Assumption 14) Whatever you do will be rapidly outdated by new technological developments.
Assumption 15) Whatever you do or say will quickly be known to everyone else.
Assumption 16) Whatever you do will be copied or bettered by your competitors.
Assumption 17) All services and products will get progressively cheaper as increased competition, reduced costs and increased efficiency bring prices and profits down to a minimum.
Assumption 18) Whatever you are offering, there will be a plethora of similar alternatives in the market place already.
Assumption 19) Nobody can have more than one area of real expertise.
Assumption 20) The solution you have to come up with is beyond yours, or anyone else's imagination.
Assumption 21) Whatever technology, programs, tools, methods and techniques you use will rapidly become unsuitable or irrelevant.
Assumption 22) Any final solution you come up with will have to be abandoned or radically altered within a very short period of time.
Assumption 23) Everyone is going to distrust you until you have built up a relationship of trust with them.
If these assumptions are taken seriously - as they should be - how will they effect the efficiency of a team approach to e-business strategy?
Fundamental to the concept of a team are the roles of management and leadership. Although these functions are complementary - good managers can be good leaders and good leaders can be good managers - they are distinctly different. It is better then to consider each function separately. Let's start by looking at the function of management to see how this would be affected by the uncertainties implicit in the list of assumptions.
'Manage' comes from the Latin word meaning 'hand' in the context of handling something. Management usually implies the handling or carrying out of policies and plans laid down by someone else (one's own self, if management and leadership is through the same person). It is more of a science than an art, where procedure and protocol are all important and satisfactory fulfilment of the management role is highly reliant upon calculation, statistics, methods, timetables and routines.
The role of the manager is therefore one of stewardship: necessitating qualities of good administration, abilities to make efficient and effective use of resources. Managers like and tend to preserve the steady state. They don't like anything that rocks the boat. They should be capable of handling crises, but, it is expected that they should have enough forethought to be able to avoid them.
Looking at the list of the eighteen initial assumptions one should make before creating an e-business, it is not hard to see how the conditions in the environment of e-commerce would be a manager's worst nightmare. Procedures and protocols would be constantly changing; calculation and statistics unreliable; methods and plans would always be temporary and in a state of flux; timetables and routines in continuous disarray.
Clearly, the role of management is severely compromised in an e-business environment, yet, it is often rigidly retained even though the whole concept of managing in a rapidly changing e-business environment is totally inappropriate. The way it is retained is by using the equally inappropriate technique of specifications. Where work is done in house, funding is usually allocated against a formal plan of action. This is designed with targets, budgets, cash flows, monitoring procedures and controls. This turns a project into a form that has to be handled by a manager. Unfortunately, from a management perspective, such plans are unworkable if they are based upon false assumptions or predictions that do not materialise.
This state of affairs is most apparent when technical work is outsourced to specialist contractors. For their own protection, contractors try to tie down requirements to as detailed a form as possible. Contractors in e-business projects usually have much experience of projects needing constant change and they have to make sure that these changes are the responsibility of the client so that they can get paid for making them. This common practice, designed to protect the contractor, has the unfortunate effect of turning a project into a planned form that is suitable for management, but, unfortunately is not an efficient way to create or operate an e-business venture in a highly volatile environment.
It is probable that this need to pass on the responsibility for decision making and ongoing costs that keeps the idea of management alive and is the reason why so many people think that the role of management is still appropriate in an e-business environment.
Note: The role of management discussed here is applicable only to the side of a business involving digital communication and its associate technologies. The conventional, bricks and mortar parts of any e-business, which are often the established core of a business, would see the traditional role of management relatively unaffected.