From the Ask Tom mailbag –
This question came from a different thread I follow, but it is a very interesting conundrum.
We operate manufacturing facilities in several states, with each Plant Manager, reporting to a VP who is about to retire. We are considering the elimination of the VP role. Have you experimented with or implemented self-directed work teams. Are there any lessons to be learned before this decision is made.
I have to wince. Wince is an involuntary response to pain which has not yet happened. I fear there is already bias to experiment with self-directed work teams and endure the predictable pain. But, it is still a fair question.
In my second book Outbound Air, the CEO asks a similar question.
“Come on, you arrived at work this morning and came straight away into this meeting. Your teams are all out there, without you, making decisions and solving problems. How do they know what to do today?”
Finally, Peter spoke up. “Sounds too obvious, but my team is mostly doing their work today, the same as they did, yesterday.”
“And, if I hold you in this room, through tomorrow, how will they know what to do tomorrow?”
Peter was on a roll. “I suppose they will carry on tomorrow the same way they carried on today, the same way they carried on yesterday.” He looked around to see if anyone else appreciated his humor.
“Right then, if your teams can carry on the same way tomorrow, then what do I need you for?” Catherine stared sternly in the eyes of her executive team.
This question strikes at the very heart of management. How do we define the word -manager? What is the role of a manager? I will let you kick this around for the day (comments?) and we will pick this discussion up tomorrow.