The Management Masquerade
If I had not been a part of the discussion myself, I might not have believed it. Here we were—a group of intelligent, caring, and capable individuals—discussing what would be required to accomplish the direction we had set.
The answer? To create systems, procedures, and checks and balances to manage a dynamic and a set of concerns that had yet to emerge. All of the conversation focused on putting controls in place for out-of-control conditions that had yet to present themselves. It was an anticipatory straightjacket that no doubt would slow the pace of the work and unnecessarily shackle the creativity and initiative of those who would be doing it.
I've written briefly before about the MVP, the minimally viable product, the version of your effort that contains only those features necessary to get it to market. I'm beginning to think an equally important management innovation might aptly be called MVS, the minimally viable structure, the highly limited boundaries needed to get a group of people in action. Any additional systems or procedures could be added when found to be necessary, driven by the work itself as opposed to the front-end assumptions and preferences of those managing it.
In Drive, Dan Pink reminded us of the power of intrinsic motivation and individual's desire for autonomy, mastery, and control. In Linchpin, Seth Godin asserts that “When your organization becomes more human, more remarkable, faster on its feet, and more likely to connect with customers, it becomes indispensable.”
While the desire to control how others work may be human nature, it generally is neither humane, nor helpful. While currently seen as indispensable by many, it is one management masquerade we should dispense with as frequently as possible.