TOD News
20 July 2017

What new managers for the 4.0 society?

By Gaëlle Monteiller.
Follow US
Share this article
Contact TOD

The managerial challenges of the connected era, a new society is being built on a much more collaborative mode.

The 4.0 society is characterized by the emergence and rapid diffusion of new information and consumption practices. Through the internet and social networks, new platforms for sharing experience, expertise, goods or services, MOOCs… everyone can access almost infinite knowledge, contribute, enrich, share or simply cooperate: a new society is thus being built on a much more collaborative basis.

Industry 4.0 aims to increase the efficiency of processes and shorten order-to-delivery times by exploiting the ever-increasing power of communication and robotization. It refers to the fourth industrial revolution, which, after the steam engine, electricity and information technology, is now integrating the digital transformation of society and all the upheavals in the supply chain that this brings. It is no longer people who communicate with each other: they program machines and robots that communicate with each other, multiplying the exchange of instant information to the extreme. The factory is no longer a closed entity limited to its walls, it becomes one of the nodes of an immense interconnected web, between its suppliers, its customers, its partners… The factory no longer resembles lines of operators managed by foremen: robots and cyber-physical systems form a continuous and instantaneous communication network that autonomously controls and links together the various machines and workstations of all the company’s internal and external players. Self-diagnosis and automated remote control of the production tool, customization of products during design or manufacturing, mile-by-mile traceability of the order routing… are now possible.

All these revolutions make people dizzy: factories seem to be able to run entirely on their own, managed by automatons and robots; information flows seem to be able to submerge everything and the spectre of Big Brother is not far away. In companies, employees, just like the omnipresence of connected objects in their personal sphere, have more and more legitimate demands in terms of collaborative functionalities, openness, sharing, and access to information. But the main consequence of what should be a factor of freedom and agility in the company is the disappearance of spatio-temporal barriers, the multiplication of indicators monitored in real time and the appearance of a widespread fear of no longer being able to control this environment or of losing control of the situation. This is the first challenge for today’s management: in the face of this dehumanized vision of the company made of robots and numbers, how can we give meaning back to everyone’s actions, how can we bring about true collective efficiency and rediscover a commitment that tends to disappear? The Gallup 2015 report indicated that worldwide, only 13% of employees in organizations and companies are committed and feel pleasure at work.

Society 4.0 then questions, in another equally fundamental way, traditional managerial models: whereas until recently, it was understood that ideas, actions and major strategic orientations were decided by the “top” (economic or political decision-makers), society 4.0 reverses the movement, causing other solutions, other behaviors and other proposals to emerge from the field and from Internet user communities. The force of action of this “base” is all the stronger since it is now multiplied by a renewed power of digital tools and the generalization of their access. Not listening to these changes, ignoring these proposals, exposes the company to the risk of losing its talents, of de-motivating, of not anticipating the revolutions and of disappearing to the benefit of new players.

These major transformations in society place the company in front of three managerial challenges that it cannot ignore if it wants to keep its place in tomorrow’s world. These revolutions, at the heart of collective efficiency, are profoundly changing the image and qualities expected of tomorrow’s leader. These challenges are as follows:
  • an inescapable orientation towards a collaborative approach in all areas as opposed to the Taylorian approach separating knowledge and execution. The 2.0 spirit reverses the classic “command and control” managerial model where the manager knows and speaks when the employees listen: today it is about co-construction: the manager listens, the employees speak, together they build. But tackling managerial transformation 2.0 cannot be limited to the implementation of collaborative tools, no matter how powerful and accessible they are. These tools will not make employees collaborative, it is the spirit and the managerial culture in place that will drive the co-construction movement. The tools are only a means that cannot deliver their full power without a culture and organizations that are conducive to their effective design, appropriation and deployment. It is up to the manager himself to create the ground for the deployment of collective intelligence, to create the collective team spirit essential to performance, a ground where trust will allow sharing, where respect and listening will allow everyone to find their place and to want to collaborate in the collective work. Collective efficiency relies on an organization and a culture consistent with the company’s digital choices.
  • faced with the loss of reference points, employees are looking for coherence in their lives, a meaning to give to their actions and cling to universal values of respect, trust and recognition. They are no longer looking for a father figure in their hierarchical superior who will give them orders; they are looking for a vision, an enthusiasm or even a dream that inspires them and brings them together around common objectives. The status of leader is no longer given by the title or the diploma but by the capacity to federate, to train, to give the teams the desire to follow, to commit themselves and to succeed. And it is on this capacity precisely of the manager, whatever his level, that the effectiveness of these new approaches and organizations rests, giving increased importance to the selection of managers on new skills and human qualities.
  • finally, the emergence of new “digital skills” complementary to those traditional engineers and technicians. The possessors of these skills will hold a power difficult to imagine but which could become formidable. They know how to make all kinds of data emerge, to sort them, to exploit them, to show them or… to hide them. Digital information is growing exponentially and we do not know today the limits of the associated tools in the business fields as well as in those of image, marketing and commercial development. Integrating the community of “geeks” and other young talents to prevent them from feeling rejected or misunderstood and that their poorly mastered strength becomes a counter-power is essential. These new skills will shake up traditional organizational charts and organizations and the collaborative structures of tomorrow are yet to be imagined.

In conclusion, it is clear that in the face of the frenzy of the potential of digital technology and robotics, which are now gathering in their artificial brains a dizzying amount of knowledge and capacity to learn, man has more than ever an essential role to play in the governance of organizations and the harmonious development of teams in order to control the movement and guarantee collective efficiency. Only the human being and the manager in the company can set up safeguards and inscribe these evolutions in a positive perspective, full of meaning and hope for a humanistic society where everyone will find the meaning of his life.

Beyond the important acquisition of a base of academic skills necessary to understand the different businesses and techniques, the human qualities of the manager are becoming as important or even more important than the knowledge itself. What will make the difference between the talents of different managers will be their ability to listen to and integrate all the communities of talents, to give a vision, to give confidence and to lead the teams in a shared adventure, even if it is still unknown. Companies that know how to create this managerial culture, that put in place the associated agile collaborative organizations, will attract the best talents who will imagine and co-construct the world of tomorrow.
Follow US
Share this article
Contact TOD