Hybrid Manager: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Management
The term hybrid manager is anomalous and somewhat abstract within the world of corporate America today. However more and more as technology impacts the workplace managers are starting to be defined as "hybrid." What exactly is a hybrid manager and how do they serve the world of corporate America? A hybrid manager may be simply defined as a manager that is well versed in technical as well as operational matters within an organization. Perhaps a better term for the hybrid manager is "multidisciplinary" manager, a manager that understands how to manage people and operations but also how to work within the realm of technology.
As technology continues to impact the workforce a trend is emerging where corporations are starting to recognize the need for managers to be technologically savvy as well as operationally savvy. The future looks bright for managers willing to serve a dual role and wear the hat of technologists and well as operations specialist. The importance of both the hybrid and traditional approach are examined in greater detail below.
Overview Hybrid Manager
To interpret the role of a hybrid manager in today's business environment, one must first examine the exact definition and origin of the hybrid manager. The term "hybrid" was originally coined in the mid 1980s by Peter Keen, though it was not officially defined until much later by Michael Earl, who claimed that a hybrid manager was someone who had strong technical skills and adequate business knowledge, or vice versa (Skyrme, 2002). Hybrid managers according to Earl were people who are adept at performing technical job functions but also well versed in developing strategic application ideas.
Current opinion seems to dictate that the hybrid manager is still very much present in modern corporate society particularly within the IT industry where the ability to discern technology from strategic endeavors has become critical. There is relatively little written however on the role of the hybrid manager in the world of academia suggesting that the hybrid manager exists but operates under a different pseudonym. There is however evidence to suggest that the term hybrid is still applied to groups of people and workers in the world of academia. This idea will be discussed in conjunction to the actual role of the hybrid manager and common opinion or beliefs regarding the role of a hybrid manager in corporate America.
Functions of Hybrid Manager
Hybrid managers serve many different purposes. Generally they are known for their combined business and technical acumen. Successful hybrids are considered those who have "organization specific" knowledge and demonstrate management competencies, including strong interpersonal skills such as the ability to communicate, negotiate, team build and motivate employees (Skyrme, 2002).
Generally the characteristics associated with a hybrid manager include energy, enthusiasm, perspective, a driving attitude and solid communication skills (Skyrme, 2002). These are characteristics that might also be associated with a traditional manager however. Other characteristics associated with a hybrid manager not evident in the traditional approach include a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of technological advances and impacts on the functioning of the organization as a whole. A hybrid manager is adept at driving and understanding key aspects of technology.
Increasingly hybrid managers are being asked to crate 'hybrid teams' whether those teams are sales oriented or customer service oriented (Crowe, 2000). These teams like managers are expected to have the ability to serve in many different capacities. There is also an intense discussion in the literature regarding the existence of hybrid organizations, which according to some are those that combine the characteristics of a private sector and public sector entity (Koppell, 2001). Private enterprises are generally considered those that function individually with individual political influence and structural arrangements that are more informal than formal (Koppell, 2001). This compared with a more stringent and bureaucratic environment as one might see in a government setting.
One would assume that the best type of manager to run a hybrid organization would be a hybrid manager, one that can easily flex between one line of thought and another.
Generally technical tasks and strategic ones have been considered different paradigms of functioning in the past; managers and researchers were generally thought to think, react and behave using two separate models (Wageman, 1995). This has changed however as global organizations now demand that managers work to build interdependent teams requiring input from several different people, some of whom might be technically oriented and others more abstract. Work can be structured along a hybrid design that combines interdependent work models with independent ones, allowing researchers pursuing independent projects for example to combine and collaborate with the enterprise as a whole (Wageman, 1995).
Cetron (2003) suggests that technology by nature has altered the way not only managers function but also the ways that institutions manage information and work efficiently. The key trends in organizational management have changed based on the way technology has shaped the world of corporate functioning. Technology has impacted organizations in many ways. It now dominates the economy and society at large, and what used to be considered state of the art is ever increasingly being replaced with newer and more high tech developments at increasingly rapid rates (Cetron & Davies, 2003).
A manager simply does not have the ability to work in an organization that doesn't utilize computers. Computers are not just work tools, they enable access to network data and the inner workings of a corporation at any place and at any time (Cetron & Davies, 2003). Generally wireless linkages and new telephone systems have also allowed personnel to work and manage in multiple locations and travel with work related information and resources right at ones fingertips.
Conservative estimates suggest that expert computer systems will "permeate manufacturing, energy prospecting, diagnostics, medicine, insurance underwriting and law enforcement" by 2005 (Cetron & Davies, 2003). In the world of engineering, technology and health industries business is booming and new technology jobs continue to open up. What does this mean for managers? It seems to indicate that the need for hybrid managers, those able to lead with strategic momentum yet also function as technical representatives or agents within the corporation will continue to rise with time.
Generally the rise in new technologies and increased utilization of technology within the workplace will result in a need for higher levels of education and training among managers and even staff if prices are to be reduced and profits to rise (Cetron & Davies, 2003). There is no indication that the trend for increased utilization of technology will change, thus for businesses to survive they must be able to adapt and learn how to utilize technology and management as one.
A hybrid manager will understand how to utilize research and development to boost the productivity and bottom line of a corporation. Generally the field of research and development is consistently growing particularly in fields such as information technology, electronics, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and chemistry (Cetron & Davies, 2003). Manager have to be able to keep up with outlays and corporate technological advances. They have to be able to communicate with all levels of the organization including the independent technological thinkers that are the foundation of a research and development team.
The demand for technologically savvy individuals will continue to grow in the coming years, perhaps more so in fields where technology and research are a leading factor in a corporation's success, but in all fields at some level.
Leading corporations are beginning to recognize the need for hybrid managers. Hybrid managers are desired by companies looking for individuals who can revolutionize the manner in which information and people are handled. Hybrid managers have the unique ability to combine the skills of their chosen field with the technical expertise required to get the job done (NHS, 2003).
NHS, a health informantics company in the UK recently published an article recognizing the need for hybrid managers, noting that their business required that management and employees have the ability to use information and computers to support everyday aspects of patient care among other responsibilities; information technology expertise also helped providers complete clinical work and managers to get information they need to operate from data collected by clinicians (NHS, 2003).
Adept functioning at a technical level allows managers in health management (as one example) to retrieve accurate, relevant and timely information and share that information between other professionals, departments and interested parties (NHS, 2003).
Corporations are continuing to articulate information in a fashion that is efficient and relevant. More and more sophisticated technologies are becoming an integral force of every facet of the corporate world, and in order to capitalize on the opportunities that technology offers more and more managers have to become up to speed regarding the technical nature of things (Jones, 1999). Management of change requires that leaders have a solid understanding of technology in order to collaborate with a more technical workforce and develop a strategic business operations approach that will help their organization gain a competitive edge in all marketplaces.