We don’t really have a theory for that

Itera consulting – a Norwegian IT company – is breaking new grounds in Management innovation. “Travel agency”, Their recently introduced change management program, lets 30 of the 120 employees take an active leadership role in the firm.

Using the label “Co-pilot”, the 30 swap on running co-pilot to the existing management structure at the firm. As co-pilots they run management workshops, company wide processes, report on goals, strategy and metrics and generally support and challenge the existing management team.

Read the full story here.

But what is so interesting about Itera’s program is that we really don’t have a theory that cover what they are doing. In 99 % of today’s leadership literature, this scenario does not exist. The idea of leadership being a part of everybody’s job does not really exist.

The well known Situational leadership model or the more recently introduced Transformational leadership theory both imply having a leader, not a group of rotating co-leaders made up of 25 % of the firm. So much for the leader’s job of setting direction and being visionary. Screw it. Let everybody be the visionary!!

Only by looking to some of the recent writings on management innovation, we find some early ideas in the field. The concept of “Distributed Leadership” is the closest we come. See MIT’s Distributed Leadership Forum, Spillane at Northwestern University and McCarthy’s blog for some examples. But most of this writing emerged out of studying schools; looking at the distribution of leadership between academics and administrators.

Most recently we can look to the Management innovation Exchange for some corporate examples of distributed leadership. The Management Innovation Exchange is quickly growing into a hub for aspiring management innovators. And the ideas of distributed leadership is gaining ground here.

Itera Consulting might be among the first companies in Norway to experiement with co-piloting. But we believe many more will follow. Moving forward, we see a changing role for management and leadership in knowledge-driven firms. We – and our clients and research partners – are actively looking for new and bold methods of improving tomorrow’s leadership. The future belongs to those who create it. And right now Itera Consulting is miles ahead of most of their peers.

Thanks to Karina Birkeland Lome for recommending we take a closer look at Itera Consulting.

Elisabeth Øvstebø
Managing Partner
Engage // Innovate

Christian Rangen
Partner, Engage // Innovate
Full-time lecturer, BI Norwegian Business School

We don’t really have a theory for that