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.

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 task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ~ Albert Einstein

In my work in companies, I often see people wearing virtual masks and uniforms at work, trying to conform to expected roles in achievement-oriented, pluralistic organizations. Self-management relieves the burden of trying to meet someone else’s expectations. It requires bringing the whole person to work.

The Evolutionary-Teal Paradigm creates a space to support the journey to wholeness. Things happen when we bring our complete selves—our potential, creativity and full engagement—to work.

Self-management drives engagement because we become more of who we are and more essential to everyone else. The emphasis is on engaging in wholesome ways to further the organization’s purpose.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you; you can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

4 Misperceptions About Self-Managing Organizations

Many managers misunderstand the fundamentals of self-managing organizations and what it takes to make the concept work:

  1. 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  inform 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 you think? What about where you work? Can you envision self-managing teams in your organization? If you think that’s an impossibility, why would it not work?

I’d love to hear from you; you can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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 adaptive systems. ~ Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink argues that self-management/self-directed processes, mastery, worker autonomy and purpose (intrinsic rewards) are much more effective incentives than monetary gain (extrinsic rewards).

For most 21st-century workers, self-management and related intrinsic incentives are far more crucial than outdated notions of hierarchical management and an overreliance on monetary compensation as reward.

As Laloux notes:

It is the way life has operated in the world for billions of years, bringing forth creatures and ecosystems so magnificent and complex we can hardly comprehend them. Self-organization is the life force of the world, thriving on the edge of chaos with just enough order to funnel its energy, but not so much as to slow down adaptation and learning.

If nature is self-organizing, why can’t we use the same principles when working together? Are we ready to move beyond rigid structures and processes? Can we allow people to find their own solutions?

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you; you can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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 be using.

The problem is, our brains love to take shortcuts. We jump to conclusions and automatically respond without thinking. This is because it takes a lot of glucose to run neural networks, and the brain is geared to conserve energy.

But you can change that by simply becoming aware of mental activities, just as you would observe an athlete engage in physical actions. When you do start noticing mental actions, you also notice alternative perspectives. It opens your brain to more creativity.

Brain Fitness: Keeping Sharp at Work

You can’t expect yourself to perform well on the job unless you pay attention to brain fitness. Stress and job pressure can cause you to lose or forget things, but you can actually do a few exercises to prevent brain fog.

Our brains are sensitive to many things, and they respond when you take good care of them. Don’t take your brain for granted. Here are three things you need to respect if you rely on your thinking skills in your career.

  1. Use your whole brain
  2. Sharpen your focus
  3. Maintain your motivation

Whole Brain Exercises

While a lot has been exaggerated about right- and left-brained people, the truth is we all use both sides of the brain. But successful colleagues use more of both sides; they don’t ignore one side simply because they prefer the other. Just as we all have problem-solving thinking styles, we all have habitual ways of using our brains.

The right hemisphere of the brain provides more creative and flexible visual and spatial processing. The left is used more in structured, analytical thought processing and focuses on language and symbols. The two sides of the brain are connected by a wide band of cells that passes information between the two hemispheres.

To develop whole brain thinking, you can do a number of things:

  • Try using online mind-mapping tools
  • Engage in both mental and physical exercise
  • Try certain sports like tennis, golf, and dancing

When you combine physical movements with structure, such as in a dance routine, you engage both linear and non-linear thinking. This will help you boost both your powers of perception and your creative visualization.

“In business, whole brain thinking will greatly increase your entrepreneurial potential.” ~ Dr. Jill Ammon-Wexler, How Successful People Think Smart

Brain Fitness: The Lost Art of Single Tasking

Sometimes the demands on managers’ time and attention make one feel like a juggling octopus. After a while we get awfully good at multitasking. Perhaps we need to recuperate the skill of single tasking, of being able to really focus to get work done.

One study of office workers showed that they switched tasks every three or four minutes, with a 30-minute refocusing time necessary when that happens–certainly not an efficient way to work.

You may not have control over interruptions at the office, but you can set some priorities and tactfully set boundaries on your thinking time. This may require you to close your office door or tell people in advance when you can or can’t be interrupted.

The question of why we are willing to fracture our attention and risk errors remains unanswered. There is perhaps some pride in believing we are able to multitask in order to prove our cognitive prowess, but it can also be fear driven. We’re probably terrified of missing something or not having an answer immediately at our fingertips. Perhaps this contributes to our own loss of time and ability to focus on single tasking.

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:

  1. Self-managed
  2. 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 targets. They monitor their own performance and make adjustments, as necessary. They hold meetings on an ad hoc basis.

Organizing People Successfully

Is it even possible to run a 7,000-person business using self-management principles?

Apparently so—and quite successfully in for-profits and nonprofits, large and small companies, and service and manufacturing businesses.

Here are a few examples of organizations using self-managing principles:

I highly recommend you visit these sites and learn about self-managing teams. Very interesting! What do you think about the idea? Possible? Impossible where you work?

I’d love to hear from you; you can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

Are Self-Managing Organizations The Next Wave?

Some forward-looking companies are now using self-managing principles to organize work with stellar results for both people and profits. Up to this point in history, we’ve organized work based on four very different worldviews: impulsive, conformist, achievement and pluralistic.

I wrote about this in my series on the history of organizations. To recap:

The history of organizational evolution is tied to the four stages of human consciousness proposed by psychologists Clare Graves, Don Beck, Ken Wilbur and others, as summarized by Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness (Nelson Parker, 2014):

  • Impulsive-Red: Tribes, crime cartels, and gangs run by a powerful chief
  • Conformist-Amber: Religions, the military, and schools run by rules and social norms
  • Achievement-Orange: Corporations and businesses driven by innovation, incentives, goals, profits, competition and egos
  • Pluralistic-Green: Nonprofit and service organizations driven by a culture of shared values, purpose, fairness, consensus, and respect for the community and environment

Each developmental stage yielded major breakthroughs that have allowed us to solve increasingly complex problems and achieve extraordinary results. And each stage also had its limitations, leading people to seek better ways of working together.

Most corporations today are organized around an Achievement-Orange worldview. Leadership is goal-oriented, focused on solving tangible problems and favoring tasks over relationships.

One of Orange organizations’ downsides is “innovation gone mad,” or growth for growth’s sake. When numbers, targets, milestones and deadlines drive success year after year, people may never experience meaning or fulfillment—a paradigm that can lead to collective greed.

Pluralistic-Green organizations emphasize bottom-up processes, gathering input from all stakeholders to achieve consensus. The Green perspective is uneasy with power and hierarchy. But reaching consensus in large groups is inherently difficult.

While Orange is predominant in business and politics today, Green prevails in postmodern academic thinking, nonprofits, social enterprises, and activist groups.

In small but increasing numbers, leaders are thinking beyond Green, striving to attain the next stage of consciousness. Their goal is mindfulness, thus taming the ego’s needs and impulses. They develop an ethic of mutual trust. They ground decision-making in an inner measure of integrity. They’re ready for the next organizational paradigm.

The Teal Paradigm

Progressive leaders are reinventing the way they organize work with the Evolutionary-Teal Paradigm, which encourages people to be:

  1. Self-managed
  2. Driven by a culture of shared power, responsibility, wholeness and higher purpose

In my work in organizations, I hear a lot of complaints about management. People need and want more autonomy if they are to be truly engaged and passionate about their work. What do you think?

I’d love to hear from you; you can contact me here and on LinkedIn.

Self-Managing Organizations: The Next Wave?

Up to this point in history, we’ve organized work based on four very different worldviews: impulsive, conformist, achievement and pluralistic.

This organizational evolution is tied to the four stages of human consciousness proposed by psychologists Clare Graves, Don Beck and others, as summarized by Frederic Laloux in Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness (Nelson Parker, 2014):

  • Impulsive-Red: Tribes, crime cartels, and gangs run by a powerful chief
  • Conformist-Amber: Religions, the military, and schools run by rules and social norms
  • Achievement-Orange: Corporations and businesses driven by innovation, incentives, goals, profits, competition and egos
  • Pluralistic-Green: Nonprofit and service organizations driven by a culture of shared values, purpose, fairness, consensus, and respect for the community and environment

Each developmental stage yielded major breakthroughs that have allowed us to solve increasingly complex problems and achieve extraordinary results. And each stage also had its limitations, leading people to seek better ways of working together.

Most corporations today are organized around an Achievement-Orange worldview. Leadership is goal-oriented, focused on solving tangible problems and favoring tasks over relationships.

One of Orange organizations’ downsides is “innovation gone mad,” or growth for growth’s sake. When numbers, targets, milestones and deadlines drive success year after year, people may never experience meaning or fulfillment—a paradigm that can lead to collective greed.

Pluralistic-Green organizations emphasize bottom-up processes, gathering input from all stakeholders to achieve consensus. The Green perspective is uneasy with power and hierarchy. But reaching consensus in large groups is inherently difficult.

While Orange is predominant in business and politics today, Green prevails in postmodern academic thinking, nonprofits and activist groups.

In small but increasing numbers, leaders are thinking beyond Green, striving to attain the next stage of consciousness. Their goal is mindfulness, thus taming the ego’s needs and impulses. They develop an ethic of mutual trust. They ground decision-making in an inner measure of integrity. They’re ready for the next organizational paradigm.

The Evolutionary-Teal Paradigm

Progressive leaders are reinventing the way they organize work with the Evolutionary-Teal Paradigm, which encourages people to be:

  1. Self-managed
  2. Driven by a culture of shared power, responsibility, wholeness and higher purpose

This is not especially new; some businesses have successfully used these principles for some time. But self-management is a revolutionary change for many 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? Laloux 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 targets. They monitor their own performance and make adjustments, as necessary. They hold meetings on an ad hoc basis.

Organizing People Successfully

Is it even possible to run a 7,000-person business using self-management principles?

Apparently so—and quite successfully in for-profits and nonprofits, large and small companies, and service and manufacturing businesses.

Productive self-management rarely happens spontaneously. Companies need ground rules to make it work. Laloux offers several examples:

  • 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 adaptive systems.
~ Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink argues that self-management/self-directed processes, mastery, worker autonomy and purpose (intrinsic rewards) are much more effective incentives than monetary gain (extrinsic rewards).

For most 21st-century workers, self-management and related intrinsic incentives are far more crucial than outdated notions of hierarchical management and an overreliance on monetary compensation as reward.

As Laloux notes:

It is the way life has operated in the world for billions of years, bringing forth creatures and ecosystems so magnificent and complex we can hardly comprehend them. Self-organization is the life force of the world, thriving on the edge of chaos with just enough order to funnel its energy, but not so much as to slow down adaptation and learning.

If nature is self-organizing, why can’t we use the same principles when working together? Are we ready to move beyond rigid structures and processes? Can we allow people to find their own solutions?

Misperceptions

Many managers misunderstand self-management’s fundamentals and what it takes to make the concept work:

  1. 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  inform 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. Gore-Tex 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.

Collaboration or Chaos?

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.

But 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 task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
~
Albert Einstein

We see people wearing masks and uniforms at work, trying to conform to an expected role in achievement-oriented, pluralistic organizations. Self-management relieves the burden of trying to meet someone else’s expectations. It requires bringing the whole person to work.

The Evolutionary-Teal Paradigm creates a space to support the journey to wholeness. Things happen when we bring our complete selves—our potential, creativity and full engagement—to work.

Self-management drives engagement because we become more of who we are and more essential to everyone else. The emphasis is on engaging in wholesome ways to further the organization’s purpose.

What do you think?