Do People Really Need A Manager?

Written By: Kevin Watson

1st June 2016

Can you imagine a world where people don’t need a manager?

Embracing leadership and devolving it to the employee, allowing them to manage themselves, seems a very 21st Century way.

But, can people really manage themselves?

Without a Manager…really?

I’ve come across more and more examples of organisations removing the role of management. That is, managing an individual’s performance, compliance, risk, etc. by a manager rather than the employee him or her self.

Sounds impossible? Well, it’s not.

For example, this is exactly what the Morning Star Company has done.

Morning Star is not a small business. With over 400 full-time employees, it generates over $700 million a year in revenue and is a global market leader.

Take a look at this short video, that explains their philosophy:

A challenging thought, eh?

This may well challenge everything you know about organisations and management – it sure stretched my beliefs!

Yet this is not a new phenomenon. The first time I came across something similar was back in 2000 when I visited a construction business based in the San Francisco area called DPR Construction, as part of a customer service excellence bench-marking trip.

Along with my fellow business leaders, I recall being blown away by DPR’s flat, non-hierarchical people structure.

A fortune top 100 company, DPR gather the best teams around each project and that team then appoint a leader for the project’s life cycle. Once the project has completed, the team then dis-band and new teams are formed around new projects, always appointing the most capable leader for that specific project.

There are many more examples that have emerged in the past twenty years, as well as thought leaders on this topic such as World Blu, Lanny Goodman and Dr Paul Thomas who are driving a change away from the outdated model of Scientific Management that still prevails in most organisations today.

If you get a spare ten minutes, watch an introduction to Ban the Boss, a BBC programme featuring Dr Paul Thomas on a mission to improve organisational performance at Blaenau Gwent Council by removing management. Not ‘managers’. Simply management as the outdated concept it has become.

So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.Peter Drucker

In this programme, first aired around six years ago, Paul works with three different departments in the council’s refuse department. I can recall being stretched far beyond where I’d normally go when I first watched it! I won’t spoil it for you, but let you have a look when you have time to spare…

On a connected note, I started a Poll on LinkedIn a few years ago, asking the question: “if people could elect their senior leaders in their organisation, how many would remain in post?

As a result of the poll, someone from Monmouthshire Council sent me this video, which I simply love. Watch it right up until the end and please let me know what you think of it.

Final Thoughts

Incidentally, around 57% of respondents to this poll said that only ‘some’ of their leaders would be re-elected!

This all leads me to wonder…how long before all businesses are self-managed organisations?

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