Self-Management: A New Study?

coal-mine

A recent study compared a couple of different ways of organising a production environment.

Both groups had 40 employees.  The first group had seven types of roles and was divided into 14 subgroups, with coordination, integration and continuity of the work being the responsibility of management.

The second group coordinated itself.  They had the same roles as the first group, but they decided themselves who would rotate to what tasks and which shifts they would work.

Here’s the findings:

  • Second group demonstrated a much higher standard of workingship – tidier workspace, hardware well maintained, whereas the first group was more….sloppy
  • The second group spent 0.5% of their time on ‘non-productive ancillary work’, the first group 33% (yep!)
  • The second group had 60% less absence from the workplace, be it sickness, accident or no reason at all.
  • And in terms of production….the second group produced 50% more than the first50%!  Or to put it another way, the first group was at 78% of potential, the second at 95%.

What’s the study?

Well…I have to come clean.  By ‘recent’, I was more on a geological timescale.  The study was conducted in the 1950s.

Two hundred kilometres southwest, teenager John Lennon hadn’t even formed the Quarrymen, let alone the Beatles.

The production wasn’t software development.  It was coal mining.  In Durham, UK.  The work was getting the coal from long walls.  Fun stuff.

You can read about it in Gerrit Broekstra’s book Building High-Performance, High Trust Organizations.

You see, the results on this stuff are in – when people have some sort of control/autonomy/authority over their own work….things are better.  We don’t need further studies on this, and if you just ponder anything in your own work life where you’ve felt totally into it…I’m sure these conditions were there.

So, here’s some thoughts on what we’re seeing here, and in similar studies and examples of self-managing enterprises: Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Want change? Meet people where they’re at.

Stability fans

Stability fans

People can change.  If they want to.  You can’t make them.

And there’s one way to definitely make them NOT want to change – assume that they are you and act accordingly.

It’s not uncommon for ‘traditional’ organisations to choose a dynamic CEO to ‘shake things up’ who then chooses Executives who get things done.  And this is great because we need to get things done.

And it’s going to work in an organisation or department filled with achievers and overachievers who are hanging for the chance to ‘show what I can do and to hell with the rest of em‘.

Here’s the thing though…many people might choose to work in such ‘traditional’ organisations because they want to be a) part of something stable that b) serves other people and/or the community.  Which means taking a megaphone and shouting ‘we need to achieve, we can be #1‘ as the driving force is simply not going to connect.  It’s not wrong.  It’s just not going to connect.

What does connect?  Well, not shouting for a start.  What connects to this group is creating stability.  And for this group stability is what gets things done.

I can feel the reeling back in horror at the idea of creating stability in this apparently complex, volatile, ever-changing and connected world.  But I didn’t say ‘rigidity’.  I said ‘stability’, which can be defined as ‘the strength to endure’.

And if your people need strength to endure what’s coming….start where people are at.  Which means if large groups of your people value the work because it’s stable and provides connection….then start there.  Tell people the truth, deliver the news, then make things more stable.  Settle things down, make jobs clear, sort who does what with who, connect what’s required to the future conditions you’re going to be in and get the damn systems working!

Because starting where you’re at, rather than where they’re at is going to lead directly to disconnection.

And no megaphone is loud enough to get disconnected people moving, no matter how dynamic the wielder.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Eliminate change management

We all know the usual routine – management identifies the need for more productivity and/or quality or a new strategy, the necessary actions are identified (internally, externally or a combination of both), this necessitates change, so now we ‘change manage’.

And it works……at best…..sometimes.

What we’re really doing here is coercing people to like the change we’ve decided on.  We’re doing change to them.

What if instead we did change with them?

As Peter Block says,

when someone states ‘we need to get everyone on board‘, the answer is ‘what makes you think you’re in the boat?

Imagine if, instead of management calling in the external experts, it went the other way around and the frontline team approached management and said

We’re out of ideas.  But if you can find $50k for those improvement consultants we were speaking to last week, we reckon we can work with them and find about $200k per year savings back to the business‘.

Would this require ‘change management’? Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

51% – the brilliantly simple concept to start creating real commitment

Read it on stairs (2)

There’s an element that gets overlooked when you set up your organisation with the right number of levels (yes, there is a right number, but that’s a different post), and when you make sure that the people in the roles will be able to add value at the level that the role requires.  You get a natural feeling of release or ‘that feels better’ as some of the key conditions that create micromanagement or disconnection are now dealt with.

Couple in some training about what the unique value-add of each level is, and we’re well on the way toward an enterprise that can seriously get things done, both today’s work, and tomorrow’s.  If you’d like some research on this, and no less than 50 years’ worth is good enough for you, check out the work of Elliott Jaques.  We use it because it works.

But there’s a darker side.

In the process of defining ‘levels’, the human need for dominance rears it’s head.  I’m talking about the idea that “I’m at a higher ‘level’, therefore I know better than you”.  Don’t get me wrong, most times this isn’t evil, and comes through as genuine caring for ‘your’ people.  But the very act of assuming you know what’s best for someone else….how comfortable are you with being on the receiving end of that?

Yet, we need people who can think in longer timespans so we’re OK in the future.  And we need people who can make things work right now so we’re OK right now.  We need all of these things for a successful business.  Hierarchy is actually natural.

So what do we do?

What we do is move to the mindset described by Peter Block as Partnering not Parenting. Read more…

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Letting them know what you want is NOT micromanaging

There’s a reason I don’t get into paintball much.  Part of it is, of course, that I’m not that good at it.  But that’s not the main reason.  The main reason is that I’ve never had the chance to be part of a team where someone in it really knows what they are doing.

I want someone to say something like this:

“OK everyone, this is about taking that flag over there.  So here’s what we’re going to do.  Adam and Tim, when the whistle goes, you head straight to those logs, get in behind and wait.  Sarah and Terry, once Adam and Tim are there, you go over behind the trees on the right.  Adam, when they get there, pop up and lay down some covering fire, Tim that’s when you head toward the barricade.  Now, it’s all going to go wrong at some point, so when that happens, stay low, and make your way to the left.  Just keep left until we can regroup.  Keep listening for me, I’ll keep us on track, and if I go down, Sarah…you take over”.

Or something like that.

And, of course, if I’ve got some ideas, it would be great if they’d have listen.  But I want a plan, and I want to know what I need to do.

You see, I feel fairly useless playing paintball because I lack the knowledge of what to do and the skill in how to do it.  But I’m not actually useless.  I might be well past young, but I can run, I’m coordinated, and I know how to aim and fire.  And I like to have a go.

I just need a leader who can put me to good use.

Then I’ll be more valuable.

And funnily enough…we’ll get more done, and we’ll have a better time.

Letting your people know what you want them to do is not micromanaging.  

It’s just managing.  And it’s why you’re paid.

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

Why managers exist (really!)

The group of Senior Managers had their heads down, writing.  I’d asked them to put down, in a sentence, the purpose of management, why it exists.

“One more minute” I called out, going over to the whiteboard and checking that the marker I had picked up wasn’t permanent, a holdover from a workshop some seven years earlier that will never leave me!

“OK, what have we got?  Let’s call out some of the key words.”

After a brief silence, the more talkative in the group spoke up, then gradually everyone.  I wrote furiously on the board:

  • Provide direction
  • Inspire
  • Set context
  • Ensure performance
  • Deliver results
  • Create teamwork
  • Reward performance
  • Hard conversations

A stepped back, and moved into the group so we could view the board together.

“Not a bad list” I offered.

I let the silence hang, then asked; “But what is this actually a list of?”

Again, silence.  Then Kuldip, who had gone first earlier called out; “it’s what you asked for – why management exists”.

“Thank you for speaking up” I said smiling.  ”To me, however, it’s this….” and I went over to the whiteboard and wrote the word ‘ACTIVITIES’ on the top of the list.  I continued…

“It’s a list of things managers do.  And they all make perfect sense!.  Who could disagree?”

I looked around the room.  Some nods, some slight frowns, and a little bit of intrigue.

“But let’s go back to the question.  What’s the point of it?  What is the purpose of management, why does it exist?  Why do this stuff?”

More silence.  I’ve never been natural at what these days they call ‘holding the space’, but have learned over years of workshops.  I stayed still, then slowly went to the board and wrote

THE PURPOSE OF MANAGEMENT IS……TO MAKE YOUR PEOPLE MORE VALUABLE TO THE ORGANISATION….’.

I stood back and surveyed the room.  Nods, some smiles.

I wrote up ‘….WHICH MAKES THEM FEEL….

This time Kuldip nailed it:

“VALUED’.

 

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.