Myth: self-managing organisations are diverse, equitable, and inclusive
Many people I speak to think that transitioning to self-management will ‘solve’ diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Inspired by books like Reinventing Organisations, the hope is self-management and wholeness will create a utopia of human beings in harmony.
It’s so disappointing, then, when harmful power dynamics persist.
Self-managing organisations are not a panacea.
Take, for example, who self-management can naturally privilege.
If you are a white, cisgender, middle class, heterosexual, non-disabled male, it will likely be easier for you to:
- Put forward and argue proposals
- Disagree with others
- Request a pay rise/promotion
- Be your authentic self
One client told me: “People of colour in our organisation don’t feel safe bringing their whole selves outside their front door, let alone to work.”
What self-management can be is a revealing blacklight.
As Simon Mont writes:
“…if you don’t plan for the power relationships that you want, you will unconsciously reproduce the power relationships of the culture you inherited.”
Some possible starting points:
#1: Start to map. Create a working group of representative volunteers who can map how things are currently, with honesty and compassion.
#2: Paint a vision. Dream up how you would like to be with each other as colleagues. What could be possible?
#3: Make agreements within capacity. What agreements can you make about how to move towards this vision, within your capacity? E.g. Maybe you don’t feel confident or skilled enough yet to host the dialogues needed to really crack open this topic.
Ultimately, there is no shortcut to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Self-managing organisations provide an opportunity, but only if we are willing to do the deeper work.