In the 2003 book, “Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology,” author Paul Glen states, “Because technology has permeated all functional areas of organizations, every manager must now know how to lead geeks” (p. 18). Glen’s assertion begs two important questions: has technology permeated all functional areas of the modern business and do managers need specialized leadership techniques for handling knowledge workers? An evaluation of Glen’s statement in context with an example company provides a means for determining if the assertions are correct. Raytheon Company is a Fortune 100 aerospace and defense company with 85,000 employees across six business units and 17 functional organizations (Raytheon 2009 Annual Report, 2009). Raytheon Company provides a useful case for studying Glen’s claims.
The first aspect of Glen’s statement is the assertion that, “technology has permeated all functional areas of organizations” (p. 18). At Raytheon, there are 17 functional organizations that constitute the business: Business Development; Communications; Contracts; Engineering & Technology; Environmental, Health, & Safety; Ethics; Export Import; Facilities; Finance; Human Resources; Information Technology; Legal; Manufacturing; Program Management; Quality; Security; and, Supply Chain Management. Technology plays a critical role in the operation of the business across all functions. Supply Chain Management monitors material movement using bar code readers integrated with the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to the granularity of individual cubicles (e.g., package XXXXX was delivered to cubicle YYYYY at 3:35pm on July 12, 2010). Contracts utilizes a business partner extranet to share standard terms and conditions with vendors and suppliers. Manufacturing uses sophisticated factory floor automation systems to ensure products meet quality requirements. Glen’s statement that technology reaches all aspects of business is clearly upheld at Raytheon.
The second part of Glen’s (2003) statement asserts that the prevalence of technology implies that business leaders must be prepared to manage and lead knowledge workers. There is a prima facie case for Glen’s assertion based on the pervasiveness of technology within the business. In addition, articles by Maccoby (1996) and Badawy (2007) support the notion that technology innovators, aka knowledge workers, require different leadership styles than manual or traditional workers. Glen also argues that knowledge workers, which he refers to as “geeks,” require a different leadership style. Badawy argues for several modifications to traditional human resources services to enable better management of knowledge workers. The system of performance appraisals, dual-ladder career management, hiring practices, et al. that Badawy advocates largely represents the Raytheon Company approach to managing knowledge workers. For example, Raytheon Company offers a dual ladder career track where knowledge workers may choose to pursue either a managerial or a technical path. The compensation and rewards on the technical path are equivalent to those on the managerial path. Raytheon has won numerous awards for employee opportunity programs. Badawy discusses the compelling motivational power these systems provide to leaders of knowledge workers.
Glen’s (2003) assertion that, “Because technology has permeated all functional areas of organizations, every manager must now know how to lead geeks” (p. 18), is confirmed by examining Raytheon Company. The current state at Raytheon Company confirms both Glen’s assertion regarding the prevalence of technology throughout modern enterprises and the importance of managing knowledge workers using different leadership styles than traditional workers.
Badawy, M. K. (2007). Managing human resources. Research Technology Management, 50(4), 56. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.library.capella.edu/pqdweb?did=1306931141&Fmt=7&clientId=62763&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Glen, P. (2003). Leading geeks: How to manage and lead people who deliver technology (First Edition ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Maccoby, M. (1996). Resolving the leadership paradox: The doctor’s dialogue. Research Technology Management, 39(3), 57. Retrieved from http://proquest.umi.com.library.capella.edu/pqdweb?did=9597925&Fmt=7&clientId=62763&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Raytheon 2009 annual report (2010). Retrieved from http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/irol/84/84193/Raytheon_AR_2009/index.html