Self-Managing Organizations: Collaboration or Chaos?

Self-Managing Organizations: Collaboration or Chaos?

In my previous posts, I introduced a new paradigm for self-managing organizations. We no long accept total control from leaders who command tasks be done. Increasingly we work in teams. And now, some experts believe we’re about to make another shift in the way we manage people to peak performance. This new organizational model, called Evolutionary-Teal, gives autonomy and responsibilities for managerial tasks to self-managing teams. Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness offers several examples of progressive companies that are already using self-management with spectacular results both for people and for profits. W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. The Morning Star Company Buurtzorg HCL Technologies FAVI But there’s a lot of skepticism about self-management principles. Won’t this setup lead to chaos? Who’s going to set strategy, allocate resources, manage and lead? Most of us have been educated in management principles and have worked in hierarchical corporations for so long that we can’t imagine any other way. There’s one workforce group that immediately understands and embraces self-management: millennials. Young people who have grown up using the Internet are no stranger to self-organizing. In the disruptive online world, influence is based on contribution and reputation, not position. Some say millennials are hard to manage. Maybe not, if they have responsibilities and can contribute. But this requires managers to abandon their efforts to control in favor of sharing power. It also means developing a tolerance for trying new things, making mistakes and adjusting course. Are we too ingrained with old organizational models to let new systems and structures evolve? Our...
4 Misperceptions About Self-Managing Organizations

4 Misperceptions About Self-Managing Organizations

Many managers misunderstand the fundamentals of self-managing organizations and what it takes to make the concept work: Misperception #1: There is no structure, management or leadership. Self-managing organizations do not replace the pyramid with democratically led consensus. There is instead an interlocking, clearly defined set of structures, processes and practices that ┬áinform how teams are set, decisions are made, roles are defined and distributed, salaries are set, people are hired and fired, and so on. All management tasks become the team’s responsibility. Misperception #2: Everyone is equal. Self-organizing teams circumvent the problems created by unequal distribution of power. People can hold different levels of power, yet everyone can be powerful. It’s not a zero-sum game. The question is not: How can everyone have equal power? It’s rather: How can everyone be powerful? Instead of hierarchies of power and position, there are natural hierarchies of influence. Misperception #3: It’s about empowerment. There is irony in the phrase “empowering people.” You can empower people only when there’s a hierarchy with an unequal distribution of power. In self-managing organizations, people have power and the freedom and responsibility that go along with it. Every team member is responsible for achieving the organization’s purpose. Misperception #4: It’s still experimental. Managers and leaders think of self-management as a rare commodity, but it’s actually been proven in both small- and large-scale companies in just about every field. There are several organizational models. W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. has used self-organizing principles since its founding in the 1950s. Other success stories include Whole Foods Market, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Alcoholics Anonymous, Wikipedia and Linux. What do...
Self-Managing Teams: No Boss, No Managers

Self-Managing Teams: No Boss, No Managers

Productive self-management rarely happens spontaneously. Companies need ground rules to make it work. Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness offers several examples of what happens in self-managing teams. No Boss: Teams of typically 10 to 12 members deal with all management tasks. They set direction and priorities, analyze problems, make plans, evaluate performance and make decisions. Their success depends on adequate training, coaching and tools. Teams have a set process for exploring decisions and solutions. No Middle Management: No boss exists within the team, nor are there regional managers or a pyramid. Some organizations make coaches available when a team gets stuck. Teams are responsible for finding their way around problems. They delegate tasks widely among themselves and must appraise each other. No Staff Functions: Only a few people handle staff functions like HR and billing, and they have no decision-making responsibilities. They serve to support the teams, when requested. Talent Management: People rate themselves and each other, adjusting tasks according to individual strengths. They even set their own salaries according to a predefined rating system. This process ensures everyone feels valued. There are no incentives except for companywide bonuses, reducing compensation inequality and creating greater fairness. Motivating People In June 2015, CEOs of Fortune 50 companies took home a staggering 300 times the median pay of their employees, according to CNNMoney. This gap has increased with each decade, accounting for much of frontline workers’ disengagement. Leading scientists believe that the principal science of the next century will be the study of complex, autocatalytic, self-organizing, non-linear and...
Improve Your Thinking Skills

Improve Your Thinking Skills

Are you using your brain to its optimum capacity? What thinking skills should you develop? A recent article in Harvard Business Review proclaims that successful organizations of the future will place a premium on our thinking skills. “… in today’s marketplace, the smartest companies aren’t those that necessarily out-produce the competition. Instead, it’s the organizations that outthink them. And while there are plenty of tools that help us quickly understand what our teammates do, it’s harder to tell how they think. ~ Mark Bonchek and Elisa Steele, Harvard Business Review, “What Kind of Thinker Are You?” Not everybody approaches a problem or a decision in the same way. Understanding your own preferred thinking style and those of your co-workers helps teams collaborate more effectively. Here are examples of thinking styles: Analytical: clear thinking, orderly and rational Inquisitive: curious, alert and interested in the surrounding world Insightful: prudent, humble, reflective and strategic Open-minded: intellectually tolerant and fair-minded Systematic: conceptual, process-oriented and intuitive Timely: efficient, reliable and responsive Truth-seeking: independent, tough-minded and skeptical Mental Awareness No matter what your preferred style is, you can improve your thinking skills. If you’re primarily a right-brained thinker (creative, non-linear) you can improve your abilities to use your left brain (rational, logic). Since none of us operate solely or completely using one side of the brain, you will gain perspective when you use more of the whole brain. It starts with awareness. How conscious are you of how you approach a problem? How observant are you of other people’s thinking processes? The more observant you become of your mental processes, the more of your brain you’ll...
The Organizational Evolution: Self-Managing Teams

The Organizational Evolution: Self-Managing Teams

In my previous post, I mentioned that progressive leaders are reinventing the way they organize work with the Evolutionary-Teal Paradigm, which encourages people to be: Self-managed Driven by a culture of shared power, responsibility, wholeness and higher purpose This is not especially new; a few businesses have successfully used these principles for some time. But self-managed teams are a revolutionary change for most organizations. Teal organizations have discovered that effective operation requires a system based on peer relationships, without hierarchy or consensus. Why is this so important? Achievement-Orange organizations traditionally face a big problem: division of power. When people are classified as either powerful or powerless, competitive wars of ego, ambition, politics, mistrust, fear and greed can thrive. And that’s the good news, because at the bottom of the hierarchy, workers feel powerless and opt for resignation and resentment. This unequal distribution of power accounts for the widespread lack of engagement reported by many employee surveys. In fact, only a third of today’s employees are engaged; the rest are either actively disengaged or feel unsupported. But can we really let the inmates run the asylum, as cynics would say? Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness isn’t suggesting mere consensus or empowerment. In Pluralistic-Green organizations, decisions are pushed down the pyramid so everyone has a say, but the pyramid exists and managers still run the show. In Evolutionary-Teal organizations, the pyramid is banished altogether. Small self-organizing teams make decisions and take responsibility for results. They answer to themselves. If something doesn’t work, they revise the strategy, budget and...