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Working from home raises the importance of self-management

Because of lock-down and the risk of being infected by the virus, many employees are working from home. Businesses are under immense financial pressure and are starting to consider if they need all the space for offices as well as a need for retrenching staff due to high costs.

The media is littered with articles and studies arguing for or against working from home. Questions that frequently arise are: How will productivity be impacted? How will the lack of social interaction impact teamwork? Are all employees able to work productively from home? Many are stating that you need proper controls and measures in place, and some companies even install “Spyware” on employee’s computers to measure keystrokes and productivity. Resulting in the “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” attitude.

From the employee’s perspective, they have an axe over their heads due to possible retrenchments if the company do not deliver on their targets.

This asks of employees and companies to look towards better ways to manage themselves.

Recently I started reading about “movements” or concepts being implemented at organisations like Sociocracy and Holacracy.

A quick definition:

“Sociocracy, also called dynamic governance, is a system of governance which seeks to create harmonious social environments and productive organisations.” –

Holacracy is defined as “… a method of decentralised management and organisational governance, in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organising teams rather than being vested in a management hierarchy.” –

In books like Reinventing organisations by LaLoux and Holacracy by Robertson, companies employing these methodologies claim to be successful even in times of economic downturn. The successes of both Holocracy and Sociocracy is based on a self-managing culture that exists through-out these companies.

What is the definition of self-management?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is the “management by oneself of oneself or one’s affairs. Self-management is about finding the self-control and mastery needed to take control of one’s work (e.g., to manage one’s time, workflow, and communication).”— Camille Preston

Why is self-management needed?

According to LaLoux in his book Reinventing organisations, self-management is essential now, because the powerful leaders in organisations are just as tired of the rat race and their lives are as out-of-control as the rest of us. Customer trust is at an all-time low, with little brand loyalty. And mother earth is under extreme pressures from pollution, destruction of eco-systems and her raw materials being depleted rapidly. New organisations are required to counter all this negativity.

All this was before Covid-19 impacted the whole world, putting a strain on most of the businesses, especially the smaller and vulnerable companies, but also on big corporates.

Employees are frustrated and joyless at work because of being told what to do, top-down decisions and targets being forced on them, and not having the ability to utilise their talents fully. Can this be turned around by implementing self-management?

What skills are required to self-manage?

A prerequisite before we can talk about skills is the alignment of every individual to the purpose of the organisation. What is the most crucial reason for the organisation’s existence? Aligning to the organisation’s purpose provides everyone with a mechanism to guide their actions and make better decisions.

Next are the mindset and outlook we take on the world. Are you captured in a fixed mindset, or do you experience the freedoms of a growth mindset? It is a lot easier if you have the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them and move on vs being crucified every time you make a mistake.

It is thus necessary for organisations to transform to distribute authority and power to where it is needed most. For self-managed organisations to work the authority to act need to be with the person closest to the challenge, their employees. The power of these organisations lies in the fact that each employee acts as a sensor that measures the pulse of the organisation. Acting immediately when an issue is detected, without having to go through a chain of command and waiting for decisions or guidance. Every member and team should have the authority, power, and ability to act in the best interest of the organisation proactively.

It asks of everyone to be more transparent, more trusting and working together as a team. Asking us to remove the invisible masks we all hide behind and our selfish motives. Every member of the team needs to step up and take responsibility, which means they need to address issues. This includes addressing a team member not pulling his or her weight, without waiting for management to step-in. In a self-managed team, there is no more hiding behind your manager anymore.

For teams to be able to self-manage, they need to take full accountability for each team member, sharing the organisation’s vision for the future, agreeing to targets, supporting each other, and delivering on team targets. Every employee must take individual and collective responsibility to contribute towards the organisation’s purpose.

Self-management must be embedded through the purpose and values of the organisation, expressed through the organisational culture and systems as well as the individual behaviours of each employee.

Only when employees are entrusted to have the best interest of the organisation at heart, will organisations be able to effectively self-manage.

When this happens, employees may receive the freedom to work from home saving on fuel and time commuting to work. Organisations will be less reliant on old management practices of having to check-up on employees focusing on outcomes, as well as saving money on “unnecessary” office space.

Self-management can be a win-win option for both companies and employees when implemented successfully.

Next time I will share more on my findings and benefits from an actual implementation at an organisation.

Best Daniel

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