Lawrence Liu wrote in Key success factor for Enterprise 2.0: Finding new roles for middle management
…Enterprise 2.0 technologies enable people who are doing the “real” work within organizations to bypass their middle management and connect and collaborate with each other directly as well as update and engage upper management directly. By cutting out middle management, the savings are not only in the salaries of those individuals but also in the time and energy expended by their subordinates and upper management to interact with them. Yes, middle management is the tangible overhead in many organizations that Enterprise 2.0 can eliminate!
I too believe this change will come, and that the flatter organisations of the future may well resemble the consulting organizations of today – the likes of IBM Global Services, McKinsey or Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), where until a few moths ago I worked.
Lawrence goes on to argue that a manager to report ratio of 1:30 is impossible, but in MCS that is exactly what it was. Managers were not your traditional manager though. They were not responsible for giving reports work to do. Instead a resource pool operated with resourcing managers identifying staff with the right skills mix to quickly staff-up and tear down projects. Consultants had to proactively go about managing their career, promoting themselves and finding their next job. This, I believe will become the new model of the corporation in a Web 2.0 world. And the fact of the matter is this model exists today in many consulting firms.
But the impact and change brought about by Enterprise 2.0 will not be without pain. MCS went through plenty when they made the change some 3 years ago. A lot of middle managers DID have to find themselves new jobs. And it was VERY painful.
If you are interested in the cultural impact this new world of work will bring, Tom Peters has written some good stuff on the topic of working and thriving in this kind of workplace. The best place to start would be his Brand YOU article in Fast Company. An absolute must read for anyone in the professional services industry.