Management styles in Silicon Valley are changing

From left to right, Intel CEO Paul Otellini, former Intel CEO Andy Grove and Apple CEO Steve Jobs look at a MacBook Pro at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco in January 2006. Photo: LOU DEMATTEIS, REUTERS

Is the management style in Silicon Valley moving from ‘aggressive’ to a ‘softer, intellectual’ style? Let’s take a closer look.

What are the great management styles of Silicon Valley? How are they changing? These questions were posed by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Thomas Lee March 23, 2016. The reason for writing the article in the end of March 2016 is the passing of former Intel CEO Any Grove just days earlier. He helped created Silicon Valley – “not just its products, but its hard-charging management style”, Lee writes (subscription required).

Grove’s “aggressive, driven approach to leadership” contrasts sharply with “the softer, intellectual styles of companies like Facebook and Google”. Technology companies today often collaborate and give out technology for free.

The new century requires something different from from persons like Henry Ford, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, and Andy Grove, although these persons really made things happen in the Valley, and beyond. So, has all the innovation we have seen just the past years resulted from, or even in, a new management style? Lee thinks so, and I agree. He writes: “But we must innovate management style. We need to have more of a balance  between execution of strategy and and empowering employees. If people can be inspired that’s a much better option than being managed or controlled”.

However Grove’s management style will be characterized, one thing remains true: The biggest successes of one era are often the slowest to change and the hardest to fall when change arrives. This echoes Tushman & O’Reillys work on cultural and structural inertia (click here to see the 2004 HBS article). Most large companies are able to make incremental innovations, and will therefore succeed when change is slow. When change is radical though, these large companies do not have enough capacity to change. They will fail.

There is great change in our economy now. For example, how will Intel fare in the mobile age? I think Intel will fare well. But I also have my doubts. Perhaps a new management style will be the rescue?





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