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Making a manager-free team work - the fundamentals

I cannot fall asleep tonight (and the moonlight of the full moon coming in from the bedroom window is not helping). I was browsing Facebook timeline. An online friend of mine shared this blog article:

The Management-free Organization - The Scott Adams Blog "Management exists to minimize the problems created by its own hiring mistakes"

Here is my take on this topic:

It's more of "manager-free organization" than "management-free" as the team manages itself. To make it happen, two things are fundamental: respect for people and continuous improvement (*).

1. Respect for people

People are the deciding factor for the performance. A 10x developer is much more valuable than a group of 10 average developers. Hiring people smarter than us, or at least as smart as us, is the golden rule. Once we contaminate the team with a dull person, it hurts the moral and the productivity of the team, and it's very hard to recover. We also only hire passionate people who cannot stand the status-quo, but dare to pitch new ideas to the team. When the team is made with talented and self-motivated people, they don't need or want to be told how to work to make something good happen. Just empower the A+ players and unleash their creativity and passion. Force the team to stretch itself with orders of magnitude more challenging goals, but let the team decide how to make it happen.

2. Continuous improvement

A smart person knows how to manage oneself, time, resource, and risks. A smart team knows how to work with others to make decisions, resolve issues, and communicate. They all know the best practices are the best until they discover the better, so they are always learning new skills, listening to others, and seeking the advise from the wise. Professionalism demands the team to reflect on itself periodically and try improving itself even if many trials turn out to fail.

Lastly, to the managers who feel threatened by self-managing people who are suspected of being smarter and more passionate than you:

  1. Do more hands-on work with the team members for co-learning opportunities
  2. Stop managing and learn to coach
  3. Fire dumb people and let your team decide who to hire next time

The idea here certainly is not applicable to traditional corporates or the team that performs simple repeated tasks, but it's the principle working so far at the company I work for, and I refuse to work at places we cannot exercise this principle.

* These ideas are not mine. I learned from Lean Thinking House by Craig Larman.

Original post: March 26, 2013 | Last updated: March 26, 2013

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