Digital Shift, episode 4: Management 3.0 (continued), “la fête du slip”?

In the previous episode, I talked about how Management 3.0 may be a positive approach for management of companies and how to avoid some of the hurdles when making a change towards this kind of management. However, I can easily hear many CxOs and managers, used to working in classic “control & command” organizations, who will raise their voice and say: “yeah, yeah, that’s pretty nice on the paper, but letting people be autonomous and do whatever they want will just be a mess!” Actually, my first answer for them would be “yes, you are completely right!”

The thing is, Management 3.0, agile management, letting people get more autonomy, letting the teams make their own decisions, etc… All these approaches, as one of my previous bosses used to say, it’s not “la fête du slip” neither! (this is not a French expression that will make you look smart at a dinner in town, it was an expression of his own, litteraly meaning “a party with panties” and meaning you can not just do anything like throwing a party just wearing panties 🙂 ). What I mean is that these management approaches are not at all similar to anarchy, by just letting employees do what they want and hoping that everything will regulate. On the contrary, one must be particularly rigorous when implementing these approaches to ensure the benefits come along.

It is true that I have seen situations where managers who had been trained to Management 3.0 or agility approaches just retained the idea that the teams should be autonomous and make their decisions, so they just made a step back saying “I’ve been told they should decide by themselves, so I’m not in charge anymore and that’s not my fault if things go wrong”. And usually, after a few weeks or months, things indeed go wrong, you start to see teams which make decisions which are not aligned with the rest of the companies, which start to be less productive or waste their time on matters without issues, which become arrogant towards other teams which are not as autonomous as them, etc…
What happened in that cases? Something that often happens when people are asked to make a big change in the way they work: they focus just on the few points that are the most striking, forget all the rest, and adopt an extreme behavior. Then, you happen to go from an extreme “control & command” organization to an “anarchic” organization, which in turn will lead to re-introduce more control, etc… A bit like a pendula going one side then the other, before stabilizing at a given balance. This is something you can prevent provided you have along the management levels some people you know you can rely on as being people who are able to always take a step back and look at the big picture of what’s going on.
Management 3.0 does not mean just handing the key to the team and let them drive anywhere they want.
Management 3.0 does not mean just handing the key to the team and let them drive anywhere they want.
In the situations I witnessed, the thing that went wrong was that both managers and their teams just remembered the word “autonomy” in the management change that was taking place. The managers then interpreted that as the fact they did not have their word to say anymore (and accordingly not to be accountable of their teams neither), and the teams that they may do whatever they thought would be good (but without being held accountable neither if things went wrong). So what they both missed is that actually, autonomy does not come alone.

With autonomy comes responsibility. The team should be accountable for the success and for the failure, and autonomy is the must-have they need to perform their mission. And the manager does also have a responsibility: it is his/her responsibility to give the “big picture” to the team, to draw the playing field of the team (where are the limits of autonomy for the team, which responsibilities come along, what kind of support the team can expect, etc…).
With autonomy comes responsibility and it is important to be clear with the team what they can do or can not do.
With autonomy comes responsibility and it is important to be clear with the team what they can do or can not do.

What we did when launching new teams was to work on the management’s side on a mission letter describing these aspects (perimeter of autonomy, responsibilities, expectations….) along with the reasons of the mission and how it served the company’s interests. The managers would then share the mission letter with the members of the team, who then would make their feedback, asking for more details, maybe suggesting some amendments that would then be discussed openly between them and the managers, before the managers accept them or not. With this written mission letter in hand, we noticed that there were much less misunderstandings between the managers and the team as everyone had taken the time to work on it, and then felt committed because having been actively part to build the mission letter.

When implemented the right way, Management 3.0 really produces a significant improvement for a company, be it on productivity, staff satisfaction and committment or on the overall agility of the organisation to face uncertainty. However, implementing it the right way is much more of a challenge than the “control & command” management style as it requires managers who are skilled enough to behave with the right balance, being supportive and firm at the same time. This is a management style that really reveals which individuals are truly skilled at management, meaning how to make people grow for the benefit of the company and their own interests.


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