Intergenerational Management Styles

The move from the ‘traditional’ hierarchical organization to the current matrix structure has had a significant effect on management practices. Organization charts are no longer shaped like a pyramid with well defined reporting levels. Middle management has all but been eliminated and replaced by project teams. Nowadays the structure looks more like a submarine – senior management (conning tower), work/project teams (upper deck), support staff (lower decks).

Management theory had adapted to the evolution in the following manner:

Boomers – 1970’s

Plan, Organize, Direct, Control

Generation Y - Current

Plan, Organize, Lead, Control

This has resulted in the following change in management style and function:

Boomers

Autocratic with individual authority, responsibility and accountability.

Generation Y

Democratic where senior management has accountability with defined group responsibility and authority.

Leaders are now more hands on and actively involved in all aspects of the assigned projects, and they can move within the organization to work on specific tasks/activities. Subject matter experts are assigned as required. Goals and objectives are more clearly defined in terms of time, budget and resources. Performance is measured on a team basis rather than individual contribution.

The change can result in conflict between the generations, especially when a boomer manager expects subordinates to accept direction and assignments without providing detailed reasoning and obtaining the necessary buy-in.

Project management requires that teams be established in which goals, work, time and resources are allocated and agreed by all participants and approved by a Project Management Office. Project teams operate within clearly defined limits of authority and responsibility and are dissolved on completion of the assignment.

As boomers retire organizations will be challenged to fill openings in the senior management ranks and will likely need to retain consultants as either subject matter experts or to mentor gen Y individuals as they mature and can accept increased accountability for their actions

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