Old business ideals that are no longer significant.


When I was a kid, my grandfather used to tell me stories from his era. He used to boast of a simple and happy life with no stress or hurry. People were easy going, dedicated, honest in their jobs and satisfied with limited means.

But the world has grown too far from those times. Massive data is being transferred in small chips. We are constantly engaged in working even on the go, while eating and sometimes even doing our daily ‘honors’. We have learned to multitask, constantly striving to match the pace of fast moving and dynamic business conditions around us.

Change occurs mostly through evolution. If we don’t embrace it, we will be left behind unable to decipher our environment. So, new developments, technologies, processes have led to new mindsets, principles and ideals. Banks do not run on piles of files any more. Entrance exams are conducted online. Companies connect with other companies across the globe. The world has become a smaller place.

Operating businesses today, therefore, vastly differ from what it used to be in older times. There are many processes and principles that are no longer applicable to contemporary corporates. If you run your business like that in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, you might need to re-evaluate your current position in comparison to your counterparts.

Let’s look at some of the ‘old school’ business practices that are no longer relevant:

  • Dictatorial leadership techniques and hierarchical bureaucracy: Gone are the days of ‘bossy’ bosses. No one wants to work because they are made to. Inflicting strict regimes, keeping records of in and out times by seconds, issuing warnings or the need to control every aspect of your company are ways of micro-management that is totally unappreciated or even required in today’s office cultures. Managers now believe in empowerment. Giving employees some flexibility and space to think out of the defined lines is encouraged. Following strict protocols is no longer relevant, as long as the work gets done.
  • The “Flashy Executive Suites”: In times where companies have to face bigger and real problems within the market, providing big and lavish offices to its executives is not a high priority agenda. Organizational structures are becoming more horizontal. Communication and approachability of the higher management is more in demand. Also, in stressful global economy, management focuses on cost cutting rather than spending big bucks on designer offices.
  • No – mistakes or no tolerance policy: Management these days acknowledge that to err is to human, unlike mangers of the 70’s or 80’s who believed in hire and fire. In fact, contemporary leaders consider layoffs as the last resort. Emphasis is laid on learning from mistakes and growing by learning.
  • Emphasis on qualifications and grades over skills and experience: This is a cliché. I remember my elder brother narrating stories of how companies came for placements in their college and the best picked up the best. Toppers got placed first, but this practice is not strictly applicable today. Yes, academics are important, but placements do not completely depend on GPAs. Quite likely, a 5 pointer will land with a better offer in the end, but recruiters look for skills more than knowledge. Quick learners, problem solvers and people who take ownership are given preference than those who only have college ranks to show.
  • Women are not suitable for leadership roles: I would say this was more of a social bias than a business practice. But it is completely insignificant today. The growing number of women at top positions, boards of biggest public companies is a clear indication to that. There used to be times when promoting women to top management was discouraged, but almost all companies now focus on improving gender diversity within their firm.
  • Copy old theories than design new ones: Earlier businesses used to run with the sole aim of maximizing shareholder values. Tried and tested approaches of profit making and coping with competition were implemented. But globalization and Internet has changed everything. Innovation is the key to growth and survival as access to information is much easier now. The power equation has changed from seller to buyer, and relying on traditional management strategies is not enough.
  • Pay employees more money and they will do more: Yes, money used to be a driving force in the old business era. Monetary incentives are still welcome but today, more importance is laid on rewards and recognition. You can retain but not motivate your employees by merely paying them extra bucks. Hence, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory is out of date. Instead, an ethical work culture driven by fair recognition, opportunity and scope for growth is part of the present-day core values.
  • Management knows everything: Earlier, leadership was looked upon as someone who knew all the answers. But today’s managers don’t pretend to know everything. Collaborative learning, choosing the right people with right skills, trusting your workforce is the new approach.
  • Investing in technology and not people: While this is somewhat still relevant and followed, the modern perspective is to invest in people who are creating and running the technical interface that runs your business. Without them, no technology infrastructure can be successful.
  • Dress code or uniforms: Surprisingly, ties and double-breasted suits are no longer standard office attires. Except for specific occasions, companies permit employees to ‘loosen-up’. Business casuals are the new fashion trend for office-goers. There are casual Fridays, themed –working days in MNC offices. The idea is to have people relax and de-stress instead of worrying too much about following the clothing protocol.

There are many large corporations who still practice traditional management. GE, for example, co-exists with old ways in the new world. Work culture today is undergoing a metamorphosis. There is no place for slowing down. The transition is happening across industries and among all large as well as small-scale firms.

Even these management practices are not perfect and will continue to evolve, finding new ways to add value. Modern day management revolution calls for continuous innovation and transformation, keeping the customers happy and employees inspired. We could all hope the change continues to be for the larger good.

Contributed By: Isha Jajodia (IBS Gurgaon ,Class of 2010).

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