Are we all managers now?: the rise of the self-organising organisations.

The future of manager is connected to the future of work.  There has been talk of the self-organising organisation, which would cut or end the need for managers.  Instead, we are all managers now. The future of work will be dominated and driven by the opportunities that social media offers. The opportunities will create organisations without formal or set hierarchies.  In this way, the manager’s role becomes the future of work.

The manager’s role is changing. Managers are becoming “networked sense makers” within an organisation.  The manager will work with various teams and team members to create the products or services.  Their role is more than conducting an orchestra or leading.  Instead, it is a way to making sense of what the organisation, or team, is trying to do and translating that into action.  The manager translates visions and priorities and turns them into practical activities, plans, and goals for the team, unit, or division.  In this regard, the manager has an active role as well as a passive role depending on where they are operating within the organisation.

To harness the social media opportunities, organisations have to harness the talent and ambitions of their workers.  In this, the workers have more initiative and freedom to act.  They are no longer tied to an assembly line.  Instead, they and their managers will need to work in ways that allow them to coach (and be coached) and actively manage staff (who need it) to success.  The manager work creating a coherent set of structured conversations within teams to explore and harness the opportunities.

Active management is needed because staff are not being challenged to be their own managers.  A recent study, by the management firm Knox D’Arcy showed “active management” is in high demand. The study showed “passive management” wasted resources and opportunities. Active management was the ability to set targets and follow up with their staff. However, organisations that relied on passive management would find active management difficulty.

“An active management style is clearly a more difficult way to manage because it requires the clear establishment of performance expectations and boundaries, the confrontation of underperformance, the denunciation and elimination of unproductive activity and the objective reporting of performance and productivity to drive decision making.”

I suggest that we are moving beyond that stage.  Organisations can no longer tolerate or allow passive management.  We are moving beyond active management to the extent that we are all managers now.  Where active management will be needed is in those areas or types of work where workers cannot or will not be their own managers.  To the extent that they are their own managers, the active management is internalized.  When this happens, we can see a self-organising organisation.

Before we reach that stage, managers in the social media age will still be needed to make sure the work is organised appropriately. At the same time, human nature, being what it is, means that some work will need more active management than other types of work. They can harness the work to meet the goals.  The managers will increasingly be more like entrepreneurial work.  However, they are not entrepreneurs in a strict sense because they work within a framework.  In effect their success comes from making the framework, the organisation, work.  We are on the cusp of the self-organising organisation to the extent that we are all becoming our own managers.

About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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