People contact us quite often with questions about Self-Management. So we collected some of the more common questions and have attempted to provide some concise answers to them.
- Why would an organization adopt Self-Management?
- Isn't it hard for people to adapt to such a foreign organizational model?
- How can a company survive without structure?
- Can you teach my management team how to make my organization Self-Managed?
- It seems like Self-Management gives a great deal of freedom to colleagues; isn't that dangerous?
Why would an organization adopt Self-Management? Self-Management is a very different approach to competition in a global economy. Patents expire. Trade secrets leak. Competitors replicate superior business practices. Systems and talent are fungible. The only remaining source of true competitive advantage is to drive the cost of traditional management toward zero and unleash the full potential of human performance in organizations.
Isn't it hard for people to adapt to such a foreign organizational model? Actually, Self-Management is a more natural way of organizing than traditional hierarchy. Consider this: when your employees leave your front gate, who manages their life? Who tells them what grocery store to shop at, what kind of car to buy, what clothing to wear, what air conditioning company to use (and how much to pay them), and how to deal with the fact that the fast food restaurant over-charged them by $1.32? They do it themselves. People, as they mature, become reasonably adept at coordinating effectively with others, at acquiring the resources they need to be happy, at recognizing when others haven't fulfilled their end of a bargain and at taking corrective action with others. Self-Management simply asks participants to keep that hat on when they come to work--and most people do a fine job of it. Ironically, in our experience, it's those who've had a great deal of experience in the "traditionally managed" world who have the hardest time adapting.
How can a company survive without structure? It's a mistake to assume that a Self-Managed company has no structure. It has structure; in fact, we would argue that it has a superior structure. Structure in human organizations is nothing more than the set of connections between individuals. In a traditionally organized company, that structure is relatively easy to describe and depict: it's an org chart, and each individual has a place in the org chart based upon their title and who they "report" to. In a Self-Managed company, the structure is, inarguably more complex, and may, in fact, be more difficult to describe, but is in most ways, superior. Connections still exist between individuals (and, thus, structure exists). The fundamental difference is that the connections that exist are between the individuals who need to be connected irrespective of titles or "chains of command". Rather, the connections are based upon what one person needs from another. And this structure is, in fact, superior in that each individual forges their own connections with those they need to be connected with, which puts them in a great position to effectively manage those connections (while in a traditional organization, an employee would have to depend upon a superior to manage failed commitments upon the part of a co-worker).
Can you teach my management team how to make our organization Self-Managed? In order to really bring Self-Management into an organization you have to break out of the mindset that would bring you to ask a question about your management team. Self-Management really requires one to put away the notions of "managers" and "employees" and to, rather, view all of the members of the organization as integral parts of the enterprise, each of whom must be given the right to make decisions that need to be made, to coordinate their actions with others and to structure their commitments amongst themselves. Moreover, it doesn't do much good to have a "upper class" of employees (managers by another name) who have some sort of "super-ordinate" authority .
We have developed some training programs that are designed to help organizations make the transition to a more Self-Managed way of operating, and some of those programs are aimed at the management team. It's important to understand, though, that if you wish to fully realize the benefits of Self-Management, that the role and functions of the management team will have to change which can make it difficult for a management team to make the difficult changes necessary to realize the benefits that they desire through Self-Management.
It seems like Self-Management gives a great deal of freedom to colleagues; isn't that dangerous? Freedom must be balanced with responsibility in any organization. The Self-Management Institute promulgates principles, tools and education to promote responsible freedom in organizations. The set of principles that each colleague operates under, and the responsibility that each colleague accepts when they come aboard within a Self-Managed organization balance that freedom to ensure it is applied to a productive end.