Management Through Trust, a Guarantee of Autonomy
In this article we dive into the book of The Next Generation Company and see how management is held today.
In the next generation enterprise, the cards are completely reshuffled. The vertical hierarchical structures based on the mantra "Command and Control," perfectly adapted to mass production, are fading away, unfit to respond to the complexity of today's world and the speed of change. Management and leadership are abandoning their traditional attire. Authority is being redistributed to become more responsive, more adaptable, and more agile. These restructurings reveal a crucial question: are the days of managers as we know them today over?
👉 Build on trust
It is undeniable that more and more companies are trying to reduce their number, to transform them. In the organizations of the next generation, middle managers, who are mainly a transmission belt, seem to be a role that needs to be gotten rid of. Why? Quite simply, to regain agility but also to limit their non-negligible weight in the cost of the payroll. One thing is certain, the needs of companies in terms of managers are truly evolving. The management of complexity requires specific managerial skills, which today's managers are struggling to meet. Whatever happens, their position in the distribution of authority will no longer have much to do with what we knew until now. In any case, if management does not disappear, it will now be based on a cardinal principle and specific to any next generation enterprise: trust.
💡With or without managers?
Let's remove the doubt immediately. Management is not disappearing, as Gary Hamel brilliantly confirms when he analyzes the organization of the Teal Morning Star enterprise in the Harvard Business Review12. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater: it is true that next generation enterprises are getting rid of vertical structures, but there is no question of eliminating management in the same movement.
For some, such as Georges Garibian, a pioneer of self-management in France, this would be tantamount to resignation. It is obviously not a question of saying "Do what you want." A self-organized company is not anarchic. Deprived of a compass, each person is ultimately left to his own devices, his own system of thought, and his own reflections: the actions then deployed, however useful they may seem, may find themselves completely out of step with the very vision of the company and the decisions adopted by the other employees.
"Worse still, people may start acting in their own interests, not in the interests of the company. Freedom at work is neither hierarchy nor anarchy," conclude Isaac Getz and Brian M. Carney13.
👉 Ensure the psychological safety of employees
Similarly, Google was once enamored with the idea of the "managerless enterprise" and temporarily implemented it... only to abruptly backtrack after six weeks of painful implementation. Then, in 2009, Google launched Project Oxygen, a research project to determine the usefulness of managers.
The conclusion? They are indeed useful. But their roles are changing at great speed. Laszlo Bock, Google's Senior VP of People Operations, wrote about this experience in his book Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google14, published in 2015. Today, Martin Richer tells us that Google is conducting experiments on management quality and is publishing the results of its research, which show that employees who rate their managers most positively are also the most productive, least likely to be absent and most loyal.
Google conducted an ambitious project over several years, called "Project Aristotle," which consisted of dissecting the data collected on hundreds of active teams within the Californian firm in order to determine the mainsprings of collective effectiveness. This project showed that a climate of "psychological security," of trust, is much more decisive for the productivity of a team than the CV of its members. But who has the responsibility and the know-how to create "a climate of interpersonal trust and mutual respect, in which people feel comfortable," if not the local manager? There is no question of eliminating managers at Google.
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🥳 GOOD PRACTICE
Managers yes, but for a new management.
👉 Getting rid of bullshit jobs that complicate the functioning of companies
Yves Morieux, who heads BCG's Institute for Organization, shares this opinion. The managerial revolution should not lead to the elimination of managers, but only to the elimination of "inefficient bullshit jobs whose existence only complicates the functioning of the company."
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On the contrary, managers have never been so indispensable as long as they fulfill their mission of implementing the company's strategic objectives on a daily basis.
Thus, according to him, the managerial revolution means giving more autonomy to managers, leaving more room for subjectivity, judgment, and common sense. "You have to accept vagueness,” he says. Fuzzy logic has allowed for progress. Paradoxically, the obsessive search for clarity and fairness can become counterproductive. At the same time, managers must be put back at the heart of the action, with their teams, "a place that most of them deserted a long time ago to retreat to meetings or their offices," deplores Yves Morieux.
The repositioning of the manager's role in the company should lead him to encourage cooperation within the company. The manager must therefore ask two essential questions to each of his employees: "How can I help you? How can you help?" The power relationship in business is by nature asymmetrical. Employees are more dependent on the manager than the other way around. But Yves Morieux says that by asking these questions, "the manager can put this inevitable relationship of dependence at the service of the common good."
14 Bock, Laszlo, “Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google,” Twelve, 2015.
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📚 The right questions for the manager: How can I help you? How can you help?
While declaring himself hostile to self-management in companies, the founding president of the firm Tenzing Conseil, Éric Delannoy, makes a similar observation to that of Yves Morieux and Martin Richer.
He calls for a transformation of the role of the manager, who is less legitimate in telling people what to do than in lighting the way and accompanying the way people do things. Only in this way can the complexity that plagues traditional organizations be transformed into exploitable gold for the company.
In a VUCA world, rethinking the role of the manager at the heart of organizations to increase the fulfillement of his employees, is thus in a way a matter of finding the right alchemy.
👉 Managers become pathfinders and coaches
However, in general, as LRN's HOW Report reminds us, companies that choose to self-organize and self-manage need leadership, but not managers in the traditional sense. If they choose to keep managers, the approach to their role is radically different: a coaching position, creating a context, supporting teamwork and relentlessly removing obstacles. In short, the coach-manager ensures employee autonomy.
Organizations that have moved from traditional hierarchies to what can be described as self-organizing and self-managing entities have the greatest ambivalence towards managers, HR, and other personnel functions. Many managers in different functions are painfully aware that their roles are becoming redundant and yearn to finally find a way to make themselves more useful to their teams.
Some companies have therefore decided to move to self-governance without completely abolishing managers. In charge of Renault's supply chain, Sébastien Samuel is in charge of the team that ensures the interface between sales and production, so that the company produces the vehicles that the carmaker needs to sell in the following months. This "factory planning" inaugurates a governance principle that was deployed in June 2019.
💡 How do we bring autonomy to teams?
With Holaspirit, you're able to bring agility to your organization and teams – see who does what and bring clarity to your documentation and processes.
⚙️ How can we do that with Holaspirit?
→ The Kanban project board you're able to follow projects and keep up with tasks.
→ The Organization Visual Chart lets you see who is in what team and gives you a clear view of the organization.
→ The Meetings templates helps your teams have in-real life meetings no matter your location with after-reports of what was said and discussed.
→ The OKRs module helps your organization to stay on track and have a clear view of goals and objectives with teams.
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