The End of Management

October 16, 2011


“…an effective leader is not a hands-on micromanager;
  in fact, the freer the rein you give your people,
  generally speaking,
 the more they will excel
 as long as you’ve clearly communicated
 your objectives and expectations,
 and surrounded yourself with good,
 independent thinkers
who are not afraid to speak up.”

   General Hugh Shelton
   14th Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
   in his memoirs
   “Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior”


General Shelton, a man who clearly have a thing or two to say
about how to direct a large organization share this bit of wisdom
with us in his memoirs:  Command and Control is an Illusion.

This is a remarkable idea, coming from a man who has been one
of the top ranking commanders of an organization where we would
not be expecting anything difference than full compliance with the
orders of a strict institutional hierarchy. 


Instead of the presumption that a pyramidal hierarchical structure
is needed to prevent human beings from running into chaos, we see
that the only real asset that you can count on, is what Open Source
communities have demonstrated to be the most effective method
of undertaking big challenges:


  • Have Clarity of Purpose
  • Create effective means of communication
  • Remove the obstructions to individual initiative 


Dee Hock, the Former CEO of VISA and VISA International,
also a man who knows about the reality of running a large
organization, gives us similar drops of wisdom in his book

“One From Many:
VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization”


Hock says:

“Since the strength and reality of every organization
 lies in the sense of community of the people
who have been attracted to it,
its success has enormously more to do with
clarity of shared purpose,
common principles, and
strength of belief 
in them,
than with money, material assets, or

management practices,
important as they may be.”


These points are worth repeating: 

  • Clarity of Shared Purpose
  • Common Principles
  • Strength of Belief


“When an organization loses its shared vision and principles,
its sense of community, its meaning and values,
it is already in process of decay and dissolution,
even though it may linger with the outward
appearance of success for some time.
Businesses, as well as nations, races, and tribes die out
not when defeated or suppressed,
but when they become despairing and
lose excitement and hope about the future.”


Hock is deeply aware of the importance of Purpose
as the soul of any organization: 


“Without deeply held, commonly shared purpose
that gives meaning to their lives;

without deeply held, commonly shared ethical values
and beliefs about conduct in pursuit of that purpose
that all may trust and rely upon,

communities steadily disintegrate,
and organizations progressively become
instruments of tyranny.”


Sensing whether your organization still has a Soul,
is an exercise that must be done on a daily basis. 


“To the direct degree that clarity of shared purpose
and principles and strength of belief in them exist,
constructive, harmonious behavior may be educed.

To the direct degree they do not exist,
behavior is inevitably compelled.

It is not complicated.

The alternative to shared belief in purpose and principles
is tyranny.

And tyranny,
whether petty or grand,
whether commercial, political, or social,
is inevitably destructive.


Dee Hock, closes his argument with the statement
that should be the Zen Koan  that wake us up
from the delusion of command and control that
is at the root of the assumption that “Management”
serve any purpose at all, in human organizations:


“People deprived of self-organization
 and self-governance
 are inherently ungovernable


1 comment to The End of Management

  1. Really interesting article about managment VS self-organisation. The problem is that if you want to use self-organisation (horizontal structure) for a project it requires specific and really good tools to control it. And for the moment I still have not found a good tool to organize a project where you have different companies at the same level without hierarchical responsible. If you know some tools that you have use with success in one of your project I am really interested!

    It is more easy to blame the bad work of another than to really think that your work/action was harming the other team also. It is why a hierarchical managment is a lot more easier to handle even if it does not produce the best work.

    I know that this post is quite old but I am actually experiencing these kind of problems with my company in a project with different company where no one is responsible more than other and there are no good tools to control easily why some teams are late, why some have done bad work, …

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