The concept of the hybrid manager

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1. Introduction

In this paper, I carefully examine the concept of the hybrid manager by looking at various sources from reliable academic literature mainly books and partly journal article. The purpose of this paper is two-fold. First I examine the concept of the hybrid manager as it was conceived and then evolved. Further, I see to what extent this concept is still relevant for the present business activities and how far in the future it can be taken. I conclude the paper by synthesising all the sources used and by evaluating the topic with my own analysis.

2. Literature Review

The concept of hybrid manager seems to have evolved in the business management literature of the UK (Harrison, 1996). The concept caught the attention of the business academics and scholars in the late 1980s. There are a number of websites and links that talk about various directions of this concept today. However, when it comes to academic sources, the literature is quite extensive but does not equate with what is found in terms of websites and web links. Going through Skyrme (2001) is one best account given on the evolution of the hybrid profession. Skyrme devotes considerable portion of his book on taking the matter of hybrid manager at length. As such, the writer defines that the hybrid manager is a person who has the skills to manage the matters of information technology as well as the knowledge of managerial matters. The writer also provides the names of the two persons who, to his analysis, are responsible for the creation of this concept. These are, as noted by Skyrme (2001), Keen and Earl. Whereas Keen gave this term in 1988, Earl is the one who developed this concept to a great extent by highlighting important responsibilities and functions of the hybrid manager in the organisational structure of the times to come. Skyrme (2001) also notes that it was in the wake of the last decade of the 20th century that the need for the hybrid manager was felt by the business world. Therefore, to Earl (as noted by Skyrme), the hybrid manager is a find amalgamation of technical know-how of information technology matters and carries a sound knowledge of managerial matters. In what follows, Skyrme notes that there is generally a lack of complete understanding of this concept in the business organisation and so the relevant stakeholders (academics, teachers, business executives, and so on) should first realize what the term hybrid manager stands for, that is, what it actually entails. Only then should they move ahead in trying to see the possibilities of making use of such a person in business (pp. 430-451).

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Moving ahead to explore deeper meaning of our topic, we find some other useful sources that broaden this concept and critique it at length. For instance, the literature informs that it was in the 1990s the true need of a professional like the hybrid manager was felt in the business world. The key motives are reported to be intense global competition which was mainly fuelled by technological changes in the entire world. This caused a number of new technologies to play a decisive role for the market growth and the survival of a company anywhere in the world. A number of companies cut their human resource so as to save business cost. The cut in the job required new human resource who could do more in the previously laid out jobs. Another reason which is seen as the catalyst of hybrid manager's concept is that the competition was triggered fast by a number of big business giant emerging from the Asian market (China and India, etc.) and they took the entire world by storm. Some other limitations in the structure of the business organisation were also notably making demands for new careers and jobs. Therefore, all these needs, demands, and challenges paved the way for the corporate world to ask for professional who could provide sound assistance in matters of information technology while at the same time could deal with managerial issues. If one single person could do both the jobs, a number of companies saw it beneficial for them in the areas mentioned just above. Thus, the hybrid manager became the word of the day and it was this time around that this concept obtained more and more attention by business personnel, academics, and other stakeholders alike (Currie & Glover, 1999, 420-432).

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Reviewing more literature is even more productive to understand the intricacies of the hybrid manager. Now when the background of the term and the business conditions of the world are now put across giving us a clear picture of the concept of the hybrid manager, it seems important to look at other sources that view this concept differently, that is, differently from the basic concept and relating it more to the present day context. It can be clearly seen that this set of literature falls under the heading of 'criticism' of the original concept of the hybrid manager. Thus, in this regard, Tansey (2002) provides a very thorough critique of the earlier models of the hybrid manager. The author expands it into three broad areas that require there essential characteristics in the hybrid manager as it is needed today. These are one area of their competences, which is divided into four further branches: (i) hybrid manager's business know-how; (ii) their knowledge specific to an organisation they're working in; (iii) their knowledge of IT, and (iv) their managerial skills. The other concretises the competences, that is, the outcomes that would come from the required competences in the hybrid manager. For example, with sound business knowledge, the hybrid manager will know basics of business, and would function according to them by understanding the requirement of a specific firm. The last area is the critical ability of the hybrid manager, that is, when with a specific competence, what critical insight that hybrid manager has to have. This combination of the further developed concept has been illustrated in the table below (borrowed from Tansey, 2002).

It is this model that now seems to occupy more of the business management literature. There are quite a few authors who have expanded even this model according to their own critical insight. There is also now a more realistic picture of the hybrid manager being realised in connection with the present world. For instance, Grembergen is one author that claims that as the 21st century grows old, the hybrid manager will become more of a need of the business world. The major reason to this author for this growth in the demand of the hybrid manager is the tendency to decentralise information systems of the business world; this decentralisation would certainly require a professional who can propel two oars together: one of the management and the other of the information technology. In the future, this will be a very critical expertise of the hybrid manager because management and IT would be walking hand in hand. Hence, it will be very difficult to align these areas if they are run separately by two departmental heads: i.e. one manager and the other is IT coordinator. The author emphasizes this observation by highlighting the fact that coming days are the ones in which the world will be more sophisticated knowledge management base. This base can be effectively handled by the people with more expertise and new skills. The key player in the knowledge management will be the further sophistication of technology and systems brought chiefly by the developments in the information technology sector. Hence, newer professions will certainly be required. And in our case the hybrid manager serves for this purpose (pp. 253-260).

2.1. Critical Evaluation of the Literature

At this point, it is important to critically view the above literature to reach a plausible evaluation of the fact that if the hybrid manager is needed in the future or not. The above literature clearly relates that the hybrid manager is a concept that came into existence mainly because of the development in IT sector and its growing link with matters of management. This is clear evidence that in the future, the role and need of the hybrid manager will be more in demand than it is at present basically because of the fact that it is the 21st century that is seen a remarkable time for the growth of the IT sector and technological advances related to it. Moreover, the sources, almost all from the recent years, continue to show that there is more and more emphasis in the development of the concept of the hybrid manager. The recent sources attempt to criticise, evaluate, and expand the concept of the hybrid manager. This is further evidence that the concept is well into the process of development and that this process is more likely to mature as the present century enters its second decade. Hence, at this point in the paper, there is strong evidence that the hybrid manager is the need of the 21st century and so this concept will develop into more sophistication. In the following sections, I look at this concept in more detail by exploring other related area to find out if there is similar evidence available.

3. Hybrid Manager in the Knowledge Management

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It is important to note that the concept of the hybrid manager has been addressed differently by writers who belong to different disciplines of academia and research tradition. For instance, although the concept of the hybrid manager does exists in relation to the knowledge management, the concept is looked at differently by Grossman (2007). This author sees the hybrid profession being so attached to the concept of the Knowledge management that it is not possible to separate the two. The reason for this observation is presented by the author in that today knowledge management has not only survived but has also told us that it is going to stay here for quite a good deal of time. The author states that knowledge management is not about managing information systems and business issues related to it. Indeed it is a fluid that needs to be taken into consideration as a whole which incorporates factors like intense global competition, evolution of the market into knowledge economy, and consequently, competitive advantage coming out of these factors to those who will be abreast with these challenges. Henceforth, to operate in the world of future, in the presence of the knowledge economy variables, it is important to produce workforce which is able to handle such challenges. The hybrid manager is one individual who is going to fill a major gap in the demands of the future. The authors notes that they hybrid manager to perform in the knowledge management and knowledge economy will have to have (i) skills to network and team up with people, (ii) higher analytical skills, (iii) managerial knowledge, (iv) organisational skills, (v) skills to process fast flowing information, (vi) skills to deal with information technology needs. This profession, according to the author can be regarded as the "KM professional" (p. 32). But the author further notes that this is a development of the previously held concept of the hybrid manager. The author notes that as the need to understand the challenges of globalisation and other related forces has increased, the need to develop more and more such professionals as can deal with these matters has also increased.

4. Hybrid Manager in New Business Climate

There are sources in the management literature which shed light on the challenges that we might confront in the changing climate of the global business environment. Barta at el (1999) expand the concept of the hybrid manager in this very context by relating it to major areas of business organisation. The writers note that although the CEO's of companies do have a key role to play in the functioning of their organisations, they cannot perform all the major actions. Hence, they need functional personnel who could take the business side by side with the CEO's. These functional managers are also in a better situation to work as hybrid manager because their position allows them to have hold of quality information; they can synthesise this information with their area-specific knowledge of management, for example in accountancy, production, and so on, and can make the most use of this synthesis by their developed skills in the information technology sector. They further inform us that tomorrow's time will require the hybrid managers to work in a number of areas where they will be mainly performing the functions of understanding the challenges and opportunities of information technology within that contexts; at the same time they will be required to analyse these challenges and opportunities in favour of their organisation; they will also be required to take initiatives to address the risks involved in the decisions they make. Henceforth, this is something that needs to be expanded by the time so that future challenges can be appropriately addressed (pp. 80-83).

Barta at el (1999) also point out to the fact that if the role of the hybrid manager is seen in this scenario, the situation will be more benefiting for the organisations because this approach will have to ensure that the hybrid manager has sound information technology knowledge which they could employ with their managerial knowledge. These two factors will enable them to have better interpersonal skills; they will also be possibly able to better understand and deal with the strategic demands of the business company they are working for. Moreover, all these characteristics combined in one individual, they will ensure to carry with them a "broad vision to ensure effective use is made of the information resource available from both internal sources and external business partners" (p. 83). The hybrid manager of the future business world will also be someone who will have strong command over the conceptualization of IT related needs of the company; the individual will also be mapping out these needs and how these can be sufficiently realised to increase the profitability of the company along with other areas of development. Another important arena in which the hybrid manager is expected to play their role in the future business market is their ability to develop ways in which their organisations can move forward to learn new patterns of knowledge still based on the information technology factors. This professional will acquire this goal by closely monitoring the scene of developing technologies, how these relate to organisational and managerial matters, and how these can be learned in the best time for the best results (pp. 80-83). Eventually, looking at the role of the hybrid manager through the analytic lens provided by Barta at el. (1999), it is plausible to arrive at the consensus that the hybrid manager is someone to stay long in the days to come. The professional will not only have a major role to play in the business functions of the future economy; this person will also have their role expanded into various areas of business world.

5. The Current Perspective on the Hybrid Manager

According to the very current sources, there is evidence that the concept of the hybrid manager is still in the process of development. It has been also interpreted different in different countries. The major essence of the concept is more or less similar. According to Chew and Gottschalk (2009), today it is important not only to understand what the hybrid manager does and also what this individual does not do, that is, it is important to clearly define the roles of the hybrid manager so that the professional productivity of this individual can be attained to the maximum. Elaborating further on this area of concern, Chew and Gottschalk note that at present the term hybrid is being with a number of management- and IT-based applications, functions, and concepts which may be confusing the student of management. They define this case by giving example of the hybrid manager as different from hybrid users. They state that this distinction is very important to understand otherwise the real essence of the hybrid manager can be even lost to great damage to the organisation. Therefore, whereas, according to the authors, hybrid users are the people who work in an environment which is fundamentally user-control computing; these people readily join together their technical skills and knowledge with "the business literacy required to fulfil their primary role". One the other hand, the hybrid manager is someone who does need to have technical knowledge and skills, adequate business literacy, as well as a third important characteristic: that is, "organisational astuteness that allows a manager to make business-appropriate IS use". This third dimensional feature of the hybrid manager also enables the individual to carve out new grounds on which the future of their company depends. Another very important distinction drawn by the writers is their analysis of the present day organisational patterns. They state that today it is easily noticeable that organisations can develop the hybrid users through a properly set criterion. However, they find it very difficult to point out any such criterion for the hybrid manager's training and development. This in part also informs us that the hybrid manager is someone not found commonly and who is still needed in today's challenging business environment (pp. 330-337).

6. Conclusion and Discussion

In this paper I have conducted an in-depth examination of the relevant scholarly sources to understand the concept of the hybrid manager. It was also demonstrated that the concept has evolved over time and the factors that have been present in the evolutionary process of the concept were also closely examined. It is revealed that though the concept of the hybrid manager was realized in the late 1980s and was considerably developed in the 1990s, the concept is still very much useful in the twenty-first century. The first part of the paper is thus linked to the second part of the paper which informs us how and through which stages the concept of the hybrid manager is still so effective in the 21st century. It is mainly because of the persistent growth in the IT-based development in the world, and the growing challenges of the international business climate that the need for the hybrid manager is still increasing. The very recent sources examined also demonstrate that there are still issues present in educational, training, and practical domains for the hybrid manager. However, there is strong evidence that the concept does exist in the very present time and that it is very likely to continue to prosper in the longer run as long as the information technology is growing, and globalization remains forceful for the business world over.

In conclusion, it can be stated that the future for the hybrid manager requires in-depth understanding of the roles of this professional, its core and functional capabilities, the issues for training and education, and how to benefit more from this post in the middle of newly felt changes in the world. Having said that, it is also important to understand that the concept of the hybrid manager is now not confined merely to the UK, US, and Europe or other technologically advanced countries like Japan; in fact, the developing world is also putting efforts to produce the home-grown hybrid manager (Spremic and Strugar, 2002). Additionally, it is important to note that major challenges for the development are also quite many, but more fall in the category of training and education of the hybrid manager of the future (Morrell, 2004).

References

  • Barta, B. Z., Tantall, A., & Juliff, P. Place of information ethnology in management and business education. Padstow, Cornwall: Great Britain, 1999, pp. 75-84.
  • Chew, E. K., & Gottschalk, P. Information technology strategy and management: Best practices. New York: Information Science Reference, Ltd. 2009, pp. 335-350.
  • Currie, W. L., & Glover, I. A. Hybrid managers as an example of tunnel vision and regression in management research. In W. Currie and B. Galliers, eds. Rethinking management information systems: An interdisciplinary perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 410-450.
  • Grembergen, W. V. Strategies for information technology governance. New York: Idea Group Publishing, 2004, pp. 245-265.
  • Grossman, M. 2007. The emerging academic discipline of knowledge management. Journal of Information Systems Education, 18 (1), pp. 31-38.
  • Harrison, C. Academic support services. In D. Warner and D. Palfreyman, eds, Higher education management: The key elements. Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1996, pp. 192-202.
  • Morrell, K. Analysing professional work in the public sector: The case of NHS nurses. Research Series Paper, 1, 2004, 3-29.
  • Skyrme, D.J., The hybrid manager. In M. J. Earl, ed. Informational management: The organizational dimension, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 430-460.
  • Spremic, M., & Strugar, I. Strategic IS planning practise in Croatia: Organizational and managerial challenges. International Journal of Accounting Information, 3, 2003, 183-200.
  • Tansey, S. D. Business, information technology and society. New York: Routledge, 2002, pp. 170-185.