The Healthful Alternative To Management
“Everything is a fiction.The only thing that really matters is which particular fictions we choose to believe.”
Most businesses choose to believe in the fiction labelled “management”. They choose to believe that there is value in having people, most often called “managers”, “in charge” of other people, most often called “workers”.
Some businesses, though, are reexamining that belief. Especially in the light of the demands of collaborative knowledge work, and the need to operate under volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) conditions.
Reexamination suggests we take a fresh look at the purpose of management. Definitions abound. Most look like shopping lists of all the things managers do on a daily basis. I’m going to go with a definition I feel particularly suited to the management of collaborative knowledge work:
Management exists to create and sustain the conditions under which effective work can happen.
Or, as Peter Drucker observed: “effective management consists in making it easer for people to do good work, to be productive”.
So, any viable alternative to the traditional management + workers setup needs to serve the same basic purpose: To create and sustain the conditions under which effective work can happen.
Various alternatives have been and continue to be explored: Holacracy, sociocracy, lattices, network organisations, wirearchies, industrial democracy, self-organisation, … the list grows longer every day.
All of these alternative have one thing in common: A recognition that work is, in essence, a social phenomenon. A phenomenon involving people, and their human relationships. Few of these alternatives, however, do anything explicit about the health of the societies they claim to value.
Can we conceive of alternatives to the traditional management + workers setup? Alternatives which do explicitly serve the health of our workplaces, of our societies-of-work, of our organisations?
Organisational psychotherapy is one such alternative. Its primary and explicit focus is the health of the organisation. Healthy and flourishing organisations create and sustain the conditions necessary for effective work. When an organisation has the means to provide therapy to itself, any need for the traditional management + workers setup diminishes and disappears. Contrived alternatives such as holacracy or lattices become moot.
How Do We Get There?
Can we expect today’s organisations to transform themselves? To acquire from their own resources the necessary capabilities for self-therapy? Some very few, very determined ones may be able to achieve that. For all the rest, some help may be useful. That’s the role of the external Organisational Therapist. To help organisations begin their journeys. To walk with them as they take their first fearful, stumbling steps towards improved health and joy.