Myth: Self-managing organisations are a free-for-all
A common myth is that self-management means blowing up the org chart and letting self-management happen by chance, allowing chaos to reign supreme.
In reality, it’s quite the opposite.
Successful self-managing organisations have very explicit structures, perhaps even more so than old-guard, top-down organisations.
Self-management is about balancing the self and the whole.
Let’s take the example: “It’s everyone’s responsibility to take out the trash in the office.”
Ever noticed that when we say this, what tends to happen is that nobody takes out the trash? Nobody wants to do this task and if we leave it to chance, it probably won’t solve itself.
The key is to make the implicit, explicit.
Author Frederic Laloux shares five key processes of self-management that if we don’t reinvent, we end up inheriting patterns from the old paradigm of organisations we’re trying to avoid.
#1: Clarity about decision-making. How are different decisions made and who is involved?
#2: From job descriptions to granular roles. What roles are needed to achieve our purpose and who wants to energise them?
#3: Information transparency. How is information shared and with whom?
#4: Feedback loops in the system. What does good look like and how do we know if we’re on track?
#5: Conflict transformation. How do we attend to interpersonal tensions and what do we do when there is conflict?
Any of these five processes we don’t have shared agreements for will result in us slipping back into old, unhelpful habits.
Designing explicit structures creates the guardrails for self-organised collaboration to flourish.
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