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What is Self-Management?

Self-Management is arguably among the most revolutionary organizational models known to modern business. The principles that underlie Self-Management are reasonably commonplace--fundamentally, the theory behind the organizational philosophy is nothing new. Self-directed work teams, employee empowerment, distributed decision making, "flattening" the organization, elimination of bureaucratic red tape: concepts like these are widely accepted as desirable goals in our respective organizations, and all of these have flavors of Self-Management.

But true Self-Management is more than just a set of "flavor of the month" business trends; it's a fundamental mind-shift in the way we view human organizations, management and organizational strategy.  We can talk about freedom in the workplace and we'll be talking about something that is a part of Self-Management, but we aren't really talking about Self-Management; we can talk about employee empowerment, and we'll be talking about something that's fundamental to Self-Management, but employee empowerment alone doesn't get you Self-Management.  

What Is Self-Management?

Self-Management, simply stated, is an organizational model wherein the traditional functions of a manager (planning, coordinating, controlling, staffing and directing) are pushed out to all participants in the organization as opposed to a select few.  Each member of the organization is personally responsible for forging their own personal relationships, planning their own work, coordinating their actions with other members, acquiring requisite resources to accomplish their mission, and for taking corrective action with respect to other members when needed.

This manifests itself as a total absence of formal hierarchy.  Formal hierarchy implies that there are those within the organization who have authority to direct the actions of others, and that there are others within the organization who have only limited authority.  The principles of Self-Management acknowledge that those who would traditionally be viewed as the "employees" are, in fact, the ones who have the greatest insight into the management of their day-to-day functions and who are, further, in the best position to take immediate action when circumstances demand a response or a change in course.  Those principles extend the rights and resources required to take action and make decisions out to those who are best suited to take action and make decisions rather than arbitrarily extending those rights to a select few individuals who we anoint with the title of "manager". 

This, of course, seems somewhat unorthodox and, in a way, revolutionary.  And while, to us, Self-Management is perfectly logical and makes absolute sense, we understand how it might seem foreign to some.  We're constantly asked various questions about Self-Management, so we've collected some of the more common questions and provided answers at our FAQ page.

Download our white paper, "What Is Self-Management?", here.