The next obvious question, if you’ve been keeping up (link to previous blog), is…
“If a CEO is the conscious thought of an organization, only responsible for a small fraction of 1% of the functions of an organization, and if all parts of an organization are function critical — all consciously aware of their value and responsibility – then do we need this hierarchy in the first place?
Over the past 50 years we’ve (and by this, I mean the collective ‘we’) been searching in earnest for a replacement to the top-down authoritarian structures popularized by Dilbert and Office Space and far too often our own experiences. We’ve all met leaders who thought that they we’re responsible for far more than their 0.00045%. I was in Church leadership for 10 years for crying out loud. After 50 years of wandering through the organizational desert, we are very much still searching for whatever comes next. And I love the searching.
One popular philosophy of workplace management that has come out of this search is self-management — where responsibilities are held by roles instead of individuals, and there is no one leader. Now, I’m not an expert in self-management or really much of anything, so I’m not here to give a critique on any one methodology or say that one methodology is the way of the future. But I do want to talk about the overall notion that the future workplace is one without a leader. And by this, I don’t mean “the leader inside each of us”. I mean the boss-lady. The person at the top.
Obviously, someone somewhere, probably a business school somewhere (I’m guessing Cambridge or Stanford), wide-eyed after a night of cranking off dissertation notes on a steady diet of red bull and sushi, was hit by a lightning bolt of inspiration at 6:30 in the morning, sat straight up in their chair, looked at their study partner across the table like they had just figured out what ‘e’ equaled, and spoke in a volume much too loud to be contextually appropriate, “That’s it! No more bosses! We just illuminate all managers!!” At which point they cackled and passed out, crushing a Red Bull can under their forehead with a crinkling thud.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we just got rid of all the managers? I mean, they treat us like we’re in daycare.
Every organization, every organized group of people, brought together for a common purpose, noble or otherwise, needs two things to thrive – a paradox, really, keeping each other in tension: reliability and adaptability. On one hand, organizations need the ability to be predictable; consistent performance, procedures that work day-in and day-out, earnings that are continually up and to the right. They also require the room to change, to learn, to grow, and pivot. They need to be adaptive.
In our model, we would say that organizations require homeostasis – the condition of sustainability held internally in our own systems – and evolution, change, and growth and development. Healthy, living organizations have reliability, adaptability, and clear hierarchical leadership structures. So, how do we get there?