Business growth = Fire your Managers!

Essence of SuccessThe idea stems from an article on Linkedin, written by Ilya Pozin. Essentially he says,

eliminating established hierarchy (that is multiple levels of top-down management) frees people from working for their boss to working for the company goals.

Ilya goes on and describes a set very practical approaches and steps. His achievement is a company

  • people loved working for
  • enjoyed reduced costs
  • increased customer satisfaction and
  • improved quality of work

The cynic in me would say, easy to do if you have a bad baseline. But that wasn’t the case. So I took a more practical approach and looked back. My experience with a variety of bosses and people from many cultures would suggest it’s people driven, my (and everybody else’s) attitude is more important than any set up.

For example, working for an inspirational boss (like Sir Angus Tait) who had a cause was for me a core reason to stay for more than 14 years.

Now, what does Ilya say;

Create a Team Culture

wow, I like that idea a lot. Small autonomous teams like the maverick idea I heard about last year at ITXpo. That should work work assuming the team wants to work together and has a clear goal by which it is measured.

No wonder that this is Ilya’s second heading:

Set Goals

In addition to what I said before, Ilya specifies a timeframe for goals. Not any time frame but short 1 – 2 week goals very much like in agile development approaches. “Fail – learn and fail again and this time more intelligently” comes to my mind as short time frames are not forgiving in missing a target. The support structure and trust in the team is very important.

Provide Support, not escalation

is the managers role. From “passing the buck” to solve the issue at hand together is a new way that “old school” managers might need to learn.

Visibility (Take money of the table)

Actually Ilya didn’t take it off the table, he changed the rules. Salary levels are usually bound to roles and responsibilities and vary through performance assessments. Furthermore, seniority plays customary a great role. I personally think in many cases that is okay. Seniority, I learned, indicates a great deal of experience. Bringing this together with Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” and my son’s endless hours of practicing (football, hang gliding, and role play) I cannot deny that “practice makes perfect”. It is, however, important to note that just being in a role for many years doesn’t cut it, you have to work it and live it every hour and every day.

Which means, I’d change it to “visibility” make it clear which role pays what and why (expectations and deliverables).

Remove rules, give autonomy

This is a big one. Getting rid of established processes and policies like the 9-to-5 and fixed number of annual leave days by moving to measuring outcomes is a great perceived loss of control. And many managers may ask themselves “what am I doing then?”. Autonomy provides flexibility for the individual and it also moves the responsibility of the outcome to the individual and his/her team. This is a self regulating environment. And my guess is, this won’t fit everyone, from team leaders to staff. It also carries the risk of different teams taking different approaches leading to quality differences and potentially unhappy customers. I’d love to know how this is handled …

Lead, don’t manage

It appears an answer is forthcoming in Ilya’s last statement. Leadership means direction. Direction includes the desired customer benefits and project outcomes. It is a question of defining the parameters and acceptable tolerances and having each team provide their necessary templates and principles on their level of detail themselves.

My Summary

At the end it comes down to the distinction of doing the right thing first (to lead) before doing it right (to manage). Changing the paradigm is a new approach to effectiveness in leading an organisation. By the same means the title Managing Director becomes obsolete as it focus is on efficiency. That doesn’t do it assuming we are not heading in the right direction.

An important aspect that I feel is fully neglected in this discussion: the business cause. In my opinion the above debate is mute if the business cause is not justified. And I’m well aware this is a moral and personal choice, what works for me doesn’t work necessarily for you and the other way round.

I still think, a good cause, an inspirational leader and autonomy in my job makes all the difference for me.

One comment on “Business growth = Fire your Managers!

  1. gjmilne says:

    I have found that employees of European companies are far more focussed on the good of the company than on keeping their bosses happy. In fact, in many cases they had no problem going around their boss if they felt that she/he was wrong in their judgement. I contrast this with a behaviour that I see in many US companies where keeping the direct line manager on side at all times is seen as key. I believe that the difference in behaviours is a direct result of the US employees being on a hire-at-will employment arrangement whereas most European employees are on “proper” contracts.

    The nature of the employment arrangement can make it a LOT easier for the employees to focus on what is best for the company overall.

    Taking money off the table is a good idea. I currently work for an employer where a performance appraisal is directly tied to salary increases (or not). This discourages risk taking. If you have the choice between an “ok” idea with low risk and a “magnificent” idea with a lot of risk it makes financial sense to choose the “ok” idea. You will (almost certainly) achieve the “ok” idea but your chance of achieving the “magnificent” one is marginal. And you don’t want to get put into the “didn’t achieve” category where a pay raise is a find hope. To fix this I would get rid of individual appraisal and replace it by group/team appraisal and conduct it at a totally different time of year to pay raises.

    It is the “magnificent” idea that motivates us and those we work with. Whereas, “ok” ideas are just more meh!

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