The Lessons We Learned On Our Self Management Journey
"How far has Computest got towards self-management?" is a question that may well be exercising the minds of followers of this series of blogs. In fact, it is a question that is exercising our minds. Because we may have committed ourselves to self-management, but how to keep track of our progress towards that goal? It is one of our major concerns of the moment: the transparency of the teams, the coaches and myself. That combination.
Self-management levels per team
How do you shed light on how well a team is functioning? And how do you measure the degree of self-management within a team? In order to obtain answers to these questions, we are currently working hard to develop a 'maturity model' for the teams.
Each team has its own approach, and we also want to give all the teams room to develop their own methods of achieving the objectives set for them. All the same, it is useful to establish how far they have actually got in the acceptance of self-management and in the associated way of working. By doing so, we can determine which teams still need guidance and management and which teams are already operating completely autonomously. While wanting to let go, I have observed that this is not a matter of 'all-or-nothing'. It is a gradual process. In some cases, support is still needed.
One of the mistakes I made and have described previously was not looking at the profiles of the people, only at their expertise. This falls under the same heading. It is not just about whether individual employees can give themselves over to the goal of self-management, but about the maturity of the team as a whole. How far have they got? In which areas? It may be that they have already made a lot of progress in terms of technology, but commercially none at all. We need to have that overall view in order to be able to provide good management.
Management? In a self-managing organisation?
Absolutely! Coaches are sometimes hesitant to continue managing particular teams. The fear of managing seems inherent in the desire to establish independent teams quickly, but some teams simply still need managing and are clearly looking for it.
Some do and some don't. We need to plot a course through that, which can be quite tricky. There is no such thing as one and the same level of self-management within the organisation. However, the goal is to lift all the teams up as high as possible and get them as far as possible along that scale. But at what point have they arrived? I still find that very difficult to predict.
So at present there are still quite a few things we organise and manage centrally. I also think that the ownership of this aspect will probably always lie partly outside the teams. But many tasks are increasingly shifting towards the teams as soon as they are ready for them. You can see this in the graphic above: even where teams are self-managing to a large extent, there is always a certain degree of management.
When should you let which things go? What is the right moment? It could well come sooner for team 1 than for team 4, simply because team 4 is not ready for it yet. Letting go of responsibility for salaries, for example, is one of the very last steps. A team needs to have achieved a certain maturity for that.
Learning on the job
This entire journey towards self-management definitely remains a matter of 'learning on the job’. We were surprised at the complexity of the differences between teams. That might sound strange, since plenty has been written on that subject. But we had long believed that we could all complete the exact same development simultaneously. As it turned out, it wasn’t as simple as that. Every team has different characters and roles. Where one team works together brilliantly, in another things go less smoothly. Personalities can clash or inhibit each other.
It is important to establish how the teams can function best. For this reason, we are now working with the teams and an external party in order to gain a better understanding of the dynamic within them. We could have done this beforehand, of course, but we deliberately chose to give the teams time to get to know each other first. I think a coaching process like this will be much more effective as a result.
At the moment, we are also busy transforming our traditional evaluation system into a feedback system. A fascinating challenge. In my next blog, I will discuss the approach we are taking to this and what our main findings are so far.
To be continued...
Hartger Ruijs is founder and CEO of Computest Group BV. Computest specializes in performance and security testing for (online) applications. Hartger is regularly posting on Computest's transition towards a self-steering organization. These posts will be published on Corporate Rebels' blog to provide followers insights into the ongoing transition.
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In early 2018 I took on a new challenge. After two years in the popular management world I decided to take a leap into academic life. I started a part-time PhD program in Business at the VU University Amsterdam. Since then I have researched how large organizations (with thousands of employees) can scale and organize without the need for middle management. It’s time to share what we’ve learned.