Why Command and Control Management Is Failing Business

May 23, 2021 2 min read
Why Command and Control Management Is Failing Business

I often read about and observe business change projects that fail to deliver. Why is this? Those who write about project management or business change usually focus on people and process. This is important, but I think the problem often has more to do with structure.

So, is it time to question the command and control culture played-out in many organizations? I think so.

Command and Control Management

Many organizations portray a command and control approach to leadership. This structure has its roots in the military and is still a dominant force. It is one where the senior manager is in command and therefore controlling employees.

But the problem with command and control is this: it does not guarantee people will do what you ask.

What’s more, dissatisfaction is a common reason people choose to leave employment.

Let’s take a look at the top 4 reasons people leave their jobs:

  1. Not being treated with respect or dignity.
  2. Being prevented from making an impact on the organization.
  3. Not having a voice.
  4. Not being rewarded with more responsibility.

Command and control impedes creativity and decision-making because corporate culture dictates the relationship between employee and organization. Almost everything goes through the chain of command.

This constrains people.

Command and control management is impotent!

Command and control is ineffective because it:

  • limits engagement and commitment,
  • inhibits communication,
  • obstructs course correction, and
  • assumes the leader knows best.

Let me ask you some questions. How often do you see your CEO? Is hierarchy and authority more important than conveying the message? Do people seek permission to put out the fire? Do employees have a voice? And finally, do senior managers let fear and ego get in the way of progress?

Collaborative Leadership

I know—and you knowthat many people want to contribute, but are constrained by the limits of command and control. We recognize this encumbers and stifles innovation.

So, what should we do?

I believe the better alternative is a collaborative approach. One where we invest in relationships and focus on motivation, support, and leadership.

But first, we need to recognize that we do not need to have all the answers or need to take the credit. Only then may we work together for a common good.

For those leading change, it has to be about sponsorship: connecting ourselves to something important and lending it our credibility.

Sponsorship is not simply filling a seat in the project boardroom. It’s about providing a positive influence, seeking advice from people, and empowering them to do something with authority.


Are you ready to change from commander to sponsor? You are welcome to share your ideas in the comments.

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