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No More Managers!

How to build a successful human organization

If you want to get lots of readers and claps and comments, just write a story about BAD MANAGERS who are mean and controlling. I’ve done it myself!

Everybody who has ever had a job knows there’s something rotten about people “managing” other people. There is a whiff of the parent-child and master-slave dynamic, and nobody likes it (except the sadists and control freaks who get the upper hand of the deal). So while we can all complain together about the management problem, we also need to come up with a workable alternative that makes sense from both a business and a human perspective.

Based on my experience as a worker, manager/leader and organizational consultant, here are 5 structural reforms I would recommend for a more successful and humane workplace:

1. Invest upfront in best talent selection practices so you increase your odds of hiring the “right” person (skills, temperament etc.) for each job. This immediately reduces the need to “manage” (control) people very much.

5. Divide board representation proportionally between internal (workers) and external (investors) shareholders.

The opposite attitude is the “Type Y” mindset:

X and Y are both extreme views of human nature which we know is capable of both the best and the worst, depending on the person and environmental incentives. For organizations to succeed, they need to create conditions that elicit the best of human nature while suppressing the worst.

The 5 prescriptions at the top of this article are based on the following truths about human nature:

Rx: align individual success with organizational success (especially financial) as much as possible

Rx: allow teams to self-promote their own leaders (if they even want such a thing) based on their own selection criteria

Rx: allow well-designed human practices of shaming, shunning and expulsion to solve the “freeloader” and “psychopath” problems

Rx: make all data (especially financial and performance) continuously available to all stakeholders

Modern management practices were designed to enable military and industrial groups to grow beyond natural adaptive size limits (kind of like cancer!) in order to dominate the competition. Like radiation and chemotherapy, these practices “work” (sort of) and also do serious damage to the patient.

As scientists in the fields of immunology, genetics and cell biology build a better understanding of the biomechanics of cancer(s), better treatments will emerge. Better ways of enabling people to succeed together in organizations can be constructed out of a more accurate understanding of human nature and groups.

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