Montessori Management

Montessori-ManagementThe September 7th issue of The Economist had an article titled “Montessori management.”  It starts with, “Time was when firms modeled themselves on the armed forces, with officers (who thought about strategy) and chains of command. Now many model themselves on learning-through-play ‘Montessori’ schools.”

Plenty of business greats were educated in Montessori schools including the Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon).  Yet, as stated in the article, “…it would be wrong to conclude that the success of Google and Amazon vindicates Montessori management. Both companies have pragmatically mixed progressive ideas with more traditional ones such as encouraging internal competition and measuring performance.”

Here are some takeaways:

  • Collaboration is good to a point.  A study out of Berkeley looked at over 180 teams trying to win a professional services contract.  The more time teams took consulting others, the less likely they were to win.
  • At the top of the food chain, the article goes on to state “Excessive collaboration can lead to …mediocrity.” Look no further than BlackBerry… the once 10,000 pound gorilla in smartphones brought in two CEOs… one technical and one a manager to be Co-CEOs.  In the last week, they announced plans for laying off 40% of their workforce and reported a $1B Q2 loss.
  • Disagreement is good.  When we do our yearly strategic planning meeting, I remind the team the day we all agree without debate is the day we’re headed down the wrong road.  In short, either we can be hard on ourselves or our competition will be happy to do so.