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.

“You can’t talk to my people” is NOT Requisite!!!

Exit Sign

Question

I’ve heard that principles of Requisite Organisation mean that people can’t talk to people in other teams without checking with the manager first.  This seems to be against all modern ways of working together as an organisation, so just wanted to check in with you as I know you are an expert in this model.

Answer

I’m very glad you checked.  First principles, ‘Requisite’ means ‘what is required’ and in our model, which we call Requisite Enterprise as it uses these principles among others, it’s about designing and leading work so it’s fulfilling for customers, employees, beneficiaries and the planet.

This means that a way of working that causes frustration and disintegration of relationships is never going to be requisite in our model.  Saying ‘you can’t talk to them without checking with me first‘ is therefore obviously not part of what we teach in our workshops and online.

The Managerial Relationship

But…we can acknowledge where this comes from.  We use the Elliott Jaques idea of making managers accountable for their teams serving their customers (internal or external), and so give managers the authority to ultimately decide the way ‘work works’ and who does what in their area if that’s required.  This is called authority to ‘assign’ work.  And we describe the relationship between Managers and the team members using the Jaques term ‘Task Assigning Role Relationships’ or ‘TARRs’.  (BTW…we insist that before decisions managers also get the input of all those effected as an absolute minimum)

It is, however, a mistake to therefore think that this authority to ‘assign work’ means ‘a person may only do work directly assigned by their manager’, or even further ‘only the manager may talk to this person about work’. 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.

A Talk – Designing for Quality Leadership

Adam ACSA May 2017

Something different this time around – a talk!  I spoke recently at the Leadership, Culture and Governance Symposium put on by Aged & Community Services Australia in Adelaide.

The topic – Designing for Quality Leadership   The point?  Leadership depends as much on your organisational design as it does the people in the jobs, so….stop fidgeting and start building something! 

Click here to watch.  Goes for about 40 minutes, and sorry about the hissing at the start – that blissfully goes away at 4:15.

It’s the stuff we teach in detail in our workshops and our online learning so you can design departments and enterprises where people can do great work.

And…if you’d like to see what was on the screen, or want the super-quick version,  click here to see the slides.  I’ve written short explanations on many of them so they make sense even without the presentation itself.

Feel free to download and distribute the slides to those who might be interested if you think it might help create a conversation that makes your place better.

Thanks to Derek Dittrich from ACSA and Tim Levett for the video production.

As always, if there is anything I can help with, just let me know.

Cheers!

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.

Cross-functional work – a method for getting it sorted

Sydney-Harbor-Bridge-SilhouetteQuestion:

I was wondering if I might be able to seek your guidance on sorting out cross-functional relationships.  Is there a process you suggest we follow so we can really sort ourselves out so we can be a better organisation for both customers and employees?

Answer

Very glad you asked – getting clear in this area is about not forcing people to rely on favours and politics to get their basic work done.  It’s a service to our fellow humans!

Cross-functional roles, or ‘Task-Initiating Role Relationships’ (TIRRs) as Elliott Jaques referred to them are how work gets done.  We tend to to see the org chart as reality, when it’s actually just a visual representation of who reports to who, and what each person is there to deliver.  In reality all work is passed on to someone, either internal or external – so all work is some sort of flow, which means…it mostly goes across.

This means that it’s one of the fundamental accountabilities of every manager to set up how work ‘works’ in their area.  And a crucial part of this is the TIRRs.

So how do we do this?  First we start with WHO.

We teach in our workshops and our online learning that 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.

Five Decisions: The Simple Way To A Better Organisational Design

Number Plate

Lots of organisational design ideas out there.  The urge to play with levers has never been stronger, CEOs are answering surveys saying ‘organisational design is the most important thing’, and the last decade has even seen the sallow colour of Teal become some sort of top o’ the hill aspiration.

Which is just strange.

So let’s make sense of it and make it simple (remembering that simple and easy are not the same….).  Whichever way we do it, we need to organise ourselves so we can:

  1. Decide what to do right now, in the present conditions, looking at actual reality….so the customers being served get what they were promised.
  2. Decide any changes that need to be made to the tools, support, technology configurations, skills, guidelines so the above decisions are easier and better and don’t cost us the earth.
  3. Decide what changes to the way the whole network is put together will let us do things better now, or move to doing those new things we decided.  By network we mean suppliers, different teams, different technologies, support areas – all the things that combine to create what the customers get.
  4. Decide what different futures to invest significant time and resources into so we can continue to be viable, valuable and provide gainful employment.  Note: these decisions are best made with information gained from experiments or pilots…hence the needed innovation movement.
  5. Decide the fundamental value or purpose for the wider community behind all of this and how we will be organised so we can stay connected and see that purpose actually happen.

As you read through these five decisions, you’ll see each decision is supported by the next one. 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.

Getting Real About Freedom

Bag of time (2)

There’s a huge confusion that’s causing a lot of pain in organisations.  It’s the idea that ‘freedom‘ means ‘freedom from consequences‘.  It doesn’t.  It means ‘you get to choose, and the consequences are yours‘.

Freedom is not liberty or licence.  It’s not escape.  A person becomes free when they are willing to stand up and say ‘this is my situation, I am taking ownership of it, and of whatever happens next.’  The moment this occurs, choice comes back into play.  The boat gets a motor.  The hot-air balloon’s fire-thing starts up again.  We have agency, and it feels good.  Energy.

This is the principle we use when we help our clients with how their organisations are designed and lead….that people want freedom.  They want choice.  They want a level of challenge that pushes them without blowing their minds.  And they would like to know how things work so they can make more informed choices.

Leaders at all levels have the opportunity to give people freedom.  But it’s not always taken.  It’s hard to trust, and decades of high control leading to unaccountable behaviour simply reinforces this, and it’s not just the managers.

So how do we create freedom?

Through conversations and other communication that creates clarity for all on who is delivering what, and how roles fit together.  And decisions when decisions are required so people can get on with it.

People cannot make choices about their own way to get things done if they don’t know what ‘done’ is or how things work.

But above all, this requires a willingness to trust again.  This is the hardest part, and it applies to everyone.  For managers, it’s trust that people will take ownership.  And for employees, that their managers will let them take ownership.  This is the foundation of any successful enterprise.

Clarity and trust.

Pre-requisites for freedom.

 

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.

Board too risk-averse for innovation? Then bark up this tree…

The first job of a Board is to make sure the organisation continues to be viable.  And if you’ve been good in the ‘Added-Value Domain’ for a while (the work domain that’s about constructing the networks, systems and everything else required to deliver value to customers today and tomorrow)…it’s going to take a lot to start messing with that.

And so it should.  If the magazines Science or Nature allowed any old idea to get published…credibility of the whole science profession takes a nose-dive.  You’ve got to prove yourself before we start changing the laws of nature!

But as we also know, eventually what we produce in the Added-Value Domain is going to have to change as values change….and the connection comes from what we call the Innovation Domain of work.  The point of this work is for values and trends to be revealed in decisions to provide fundamentally new value to possibly new clients.

It’s different to the Added-Value Domain….but ends up in the Added-Value Domain.

(If you’d like to read more on these Domains, check out Luc Hoebeke’s wonderful work Making Work Systems Better)

Here’s the trick – the attributes of good work in the Added-Value Domain are fundamentally different to that in the Innovation Domain.  But if we don’t see this, and in particular, if we present information to Boards using the same criteria for both Domains….we are automatically set up for ‘no’.   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.

The real reason your roles are not clear

We can almost include as a template ‘clarify roles’ as the next step at the end of any planning day.  Seems to be the perpetual org development activity, along with ‘sort out cross-functional relationships’.

Here’s what’s not addressed: the reason roles aren’t clear is because we like it that way!

How do I know this?  Because you would take a stone out of your shoe if it was hurting.  Because when your friend recommends a certain dish from the menu, you give it a try.  Because, in the end, the world around you is the world you have created, which means you must like it that way.  Otherwise you would change it.

Getting roles clear is no harder than saying either “here’s what I want you to deliver”, or “here’s what I intend to deliver”.  This is the starting point, then discuss.  If you can’t reach agreement, boss makes the call.  Then list them up, and you’ve got yourself a role.  Make sure jobs higher in the hierarchy have longer timespans for what they are delivering so you don’t get compression in the levels, and you’ve got the general idea.

So why isn’t clarifying roles as common as ‘here’s your email address’?  Here are some of the usual reasons:

  • It will stifle creativity” – nope, creativity is stifled by a) unclear outcomes and boundaries b) specifying ‘how’ it needs to be done c) not having a good enough relationship so people can come back with ‘here’s a better outcome we should be doing’ d) people having work that is either under or overwhelming (too short or long in timespan) 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.

The simple principle that keeps large groups connected

“OK, so what have we found?” asked Kathy, CEO of a mid-size manufacturer, about 1600 people.

“We’ve found a possible cause of the issues coming out of your Eastern plant” I replied, putting on the table a diagram known as a Levels of Work Analysis.  The diagram is like an X-Ray for organisational design – it shows clearly the cracks and splinters in the org design itself that are causing frustration and lack of delivery.

Kathy leaned forward and pointed at the clearly marked red areas.  ”What’s going on there?”

“I need to give you a quick bit of lingo” I said.  ”We use some fundamental principles that, if in place, will see frustration down and delivery up.  One of these is about having what we call building blocks in place to make sure that our natural need for connection isn’t accidentally designed out.”

Kathy’s eyebrows went up.  I waited to check I was making sense.  ”Go on” she said.

“The first building block is the basic team structure.   But above that we have the wider structure, or the three-tier structure.  The fancy term for it Elliott Jaques coined was the ‘Mutual Recognition Unit’, or ‘MRU’.”

“Fancy indeed” Kathy commented.  ”So how does this help me?” 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.