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5th Generation Management

Foreward by Tom Peters

Destroy all organization charts! Walk the talk! So easy to say. I do, all the time. But many organizations have a congenital blockage about destroying the comfortable.

In Fifth Generation Management, CEO Frank Giardelli of Custom Products and Services, Inc., destroys his organization's chart. For him, the walk is not talk, but probing dialogue. He does not "communicate," he conducts a remarkable conversation. It is simple, straightforward, and honest. His colleagues are not just empowered, they are energized.

Instead of talking about walking the talk, perhaps we should start saying, "Dance the dialogue!" This strategic dialogue, as Sherrin Bennett and Juanita Brown call it, is what we need in executive suites around the globe. Rather than just looking at numbers for strategic planning purposes, we need to reflect on the infrastructure of meaning, models, and metaphors that undergird our organizations and turn them into vibrant communities.

Charles Savage provides a remarkable example of this strategic dialogue, as Frank Giardelli and his colleagues let go, somewhat fearfully, of the tried and true of their steeply hierarchical organization. Like many of us, the skeptic Gregory Kasmirian does not give in easily. Marjorie Callahan wisely captures their old and new mental models on a flip chart, as they indeed dance their way through a remarkable dialogue.

Through their explorations, we feel the curse of the "A," "B," "C" triad, the archetypal metaphor of the hierarchy. The dynamics of the triad blind B to discovering and building upon the creative talents and capabilities of C. It breeds suspicion and distrust, the real cost drivers in our companies.

Their dialogue also brings out the importance of the "customers' customers." Through a simple set of four overlapping circles and two words, "capabilities" and "aspirations," Savage redefines the value chain into a valuing cluster that inspires strategic dialogue not only within but between companies.

Our companies are no longer just in the one-at-a-time transaction business; more often they are co-creators along with other members of the "valuing cluster." We call this mass customization, and the trick is that we do not just customize for, but with our customers to meet the aspirations of their customers. Boeing customized the 777 with United, Japan Airlines, and others. Titeflex in Springfield, Massachusetts, customizes flexible piping with its customers in a matter of hours, because it has built a highly agile infrastructure. It knows how to listen to and dialogue with its customers to make them more successful with their customers.

It is not our customers' needs, but their aspirations that really count. It is not their problems (weaknesses), but their capabilities (strengths) that should be the focus of our continuous dialogue. As they feel we value them, their trust and openness will increase, and together we can build upon one another's strengths to co-create a profitable and innovative future.

The key to this book is Savage's simple yet forceful exploration of work and human time. Work is dialogue . . . a creative dialogue where we not only create products and services, but co-create one another. This only makes sense if we realize that it is meaning and not just satisfaction that really matters. In human time, the underlying patterns and resources of the past and future provide the canvas upon which to discover the meaning that inspires our innovation and co-creativity.

In 1991 I named Fifth Generation Management my business book of the year. I find that the new subtitle of this revised edition, Co-creating through Virtual Enterprising, Dynamic Teaming, and Knowledge Networking, captures exceptionally well the shift in focus over the last five years from "integration" within a single company to "synergy" and "collaboration" within and between companies. Our challenge is not to "get it right" so we can put the organization on automatic pilot, but to participate in the drama of co-creation with our colleague companies. It is confusing, it is messy, but in the swirl of possibilities, dancing the dialogue is incredibly exciting and revitalizing.

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