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Beyond Empowerment: The Age of the Self-Managed Organization Paperback – August 31, 2011
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About the Author
DOUG KIRKPATRICK lives in Northern California with his beautiful wife and enjoys business coaching and training, consulting and writing. He also works and blogs with the Morning Star Self-Management Institute.
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Beyond Empowerment reveals why traditional management is inefficient and shows you a simple blueprint for something better: focused self-management. Self-managed organizations create freedom for everyone, they eliminate the "management tax," they prevent abuse of power, and they eliminate the waste and friction of politics. They build almost-unbeatable organizations that spot their problems and opportunities, act quickly, and stay focused on their missions.
This book uses the famous Morning Star approach as its model, which is brilliant in its simplicity. Everything stems from two basic principles of civil society: 1) keep your commitments, and 2) don't use force. The remaining principles and tools flow neatly from these, like an elegant geometric proof. These include: freedom to act; no (unilateral) command authority (including firing); elimination of self-serving titles; universal mutual accountability; direct problem resolution; values and principles to safely guide independent action; a Colleague Accountability Agreement that creates natural, fluid structure in the organization; personal missions and metrics in support of the company mission; onboarding training to start new colleagues out right; a coaching and mentoring culture to build and maintain the culture and develop colleagues; and a process-oriented mindset so subtly built in that continuous process improvement is easy but inevitable.
The book includes a sample accountability agreement and other supporting tools, procedures, and ideas to help you make the change yourself.
This approach may sound naive and heretical to a lot of people. Therefore, case studies are included at the end to show that variations of these concepts (and even this specific implementation) are proven over decades.
Of course, there are limits to self-management: 1) Doug points out here (and in his TEDx talk) that self-management may not work if you have a lot of low-initiative or high-controlling workers/managers. You'll first need a model that transforms your culture from command-and-control to initiative and ownership, then you can consider the leap to self-management. 2) It's unclear whether this approach can work in a subset (department) of a larger organization since higher management could use force at any time and disrupt the ecosystem of trust and mutual responsibility. The book only describes a process for transforming an entire organization at once, from the C-suite to the front lines.
Beyond Empowerment is a quick read that will leave you thinking for years.
What is most interesting is how this approach achieves much deeper accountability than traditional methods. If you are an exhausted manager, I recommend that you read this book and consider the possibilities.