What is it?
It is a way of working as an individual, a team, and a whole business with the core principles of trust, openness, transparency, personal responsibility, and autonomy.
- Trust in yourself and in others to keep the principles.
- Open to listening, allowing for individuality, and learning from others.
- Transparency with context for all company information that will empower all people to be more productive and inspired by the business purpose.
- Personal responsibility for your work, your personal growth, and the well-being of all of the business stakeholders.
- Autonomy to express your individual strengths and have a voice in what matters across your business.
Why would I want it?
This is not something new, or new age. This is fundamentally resetting your mindset, or perhaps reawakening your understanding that people want ‘autonomy, mastery, and purpose’ over their work – It is as simple as that.
When we work within a business that operates by their own, idiosyncratic, culture of self-managing, amazing things happen.
- Resilience in individuals and the business increases.
- General well-being across the business dramatically improves.
- Productivity rockets – who doesn’t want to work on things that matter to them and that have value to the organisation?
- Loyalty to the business, it’s purpose, and all stakeholders it touches reaches new heights.
Why would the team want it?
A few, but certainly not all, of the reason to give it a try.
- When you can work by yourself and with others with the mutual understanding that you are trusted then you are safe to do your best work. Best work for yourself , the team, and the business.
- Within a healthy self-managing organisation you will be celebrated for your unique strengths and be given the freedom, and trust, to bring ideas to the business, regardless of age, experience, expertise, assumed status, and job title.
- Good ideas are good ideas, wherever they originate with a self-managing business. In this way leadership is not for the few. Everyone, when consent and trust is built, becomes a leader of their work, and the good ideas they imagine.
- You become a creative individual and not ‘human capital’ on a balance sheet.
What are the downsides?
Get it right, or more significantly, do it your way and with all your people, and not ‘too’ your people, and the downsides are few. These are some challenges we have experienced;
- Scepticism that this will be chaos. It’s not, but it is tough. We don’t shift from old learnt behaviours easily.
- Some people will likely leave. It’s not for everyone. Taking full responsibility for your work and actions is not how many of us have been raised and educated – at home or at work.
- Some changes to your ways of working will fail. Trying, testing and learning are part of the process. The hard bit is allowing failure to be a blame free positive part of the change process.
- Letting go of personal power and control is hard. Managers, in their traditional sense, are not required. But think of all that time and creativity you could release!
In reality, if you flip the way you look at these challenges they turn into positives for individuals and the business as a whole.
How long does it take?
It is never a finished ‘operating model’.
You have to go in with an open-ended and open mindset. Every positive change throws up new challenges and opportunities for trying, testing, and learning from new changes.
We do know that it does become normal, and even everyday. Over time ‘Big Change Projects’ come to be expected and embraced by even the most die-hard stick-in-the-muds.
When you experience the benefits that this way of working give you individually and as a team, you never want to go back.
How did you do it?
Having lived experience of transforming over a 6-year period to become self-managing gave us direct experience of the twists and turns that happen in people and culture change work.
- It starts with you and your colleagues, learning to really know each other and become comfortable with being open and vulnerable. From this comes real trust in each other.
- Learning that it’s okay to take the lead on your own ideas.
- Consent is central to embedding this way of working. The rules, systems, and behaviours expected are critical for success.
- Distilling it down, you just have to start, but find external help and support.
What benefits are they getting?
These are a few of the benefits the businesses experience day-to-day.
- Buurtzorg, as of 2016, have won Best Employer of the Year award 4 out 5 times, with a staff involvement of 9.5 score. Other benefits include massively increased patient outcomes and reduced care costs.
- FAVI are the only surviving specialist in their area in Europe. They say becoming self-managing has made them very resilient to crises like the 2008 financial crash, where no redundancies were made and they made a 3.3% net profit.
- Double Retail is a design and project management business. This demands incredible flexibility and speed with accuracy. Self-management transformed team trust, autonomy, and system design. The result was a lean business with the ability to create long lasting customer loyalty way beyond what its size would suggest is possible within this industry.
How do I start?
We say you will start “your way, with your people, and with your idiosyncrasies.”
It will be a unique journey as their is no ‘rule book’. Some predetermined system do exist. but these try to press rigid structures onto, what is, complex and individual people work.
Some positive starting points are;
- Talk, listen, and learn to understand who you really work with and what makes them unique.
- Build new structure and systems around your self-managing principles. It needs more principles, expected behaviours, and systems for sharing information and getting the work done.
- Experiment – a lot! – start with small changes and then the bigger they get the more normal it will become.