IT Management

A noted writer of biological books, Roger Lewin, notes: “The best run companies function much like a flock of birds, in which individuals following fairly simple rules interact with each other to form a cohesive and dynamic whole.” (See Roger Lewin & Birute Regine, “Do People Matter?” Institute for Enterprise Architecture Developments, www.enterprise-architecture.info.) Unlike Newton, he sees organizations as “organisms, not machines.” The goal is to create a dynamic culture where there’s a balance between stability and anarchy.

Managers in this culture, according to Lewin and Regine, need to have these characteristics:

• Authenticity: If managers are honest, trust develops; they create a safe place in which to be creative.
• Attention: Listening is the most important factor. Ask questions.
• Acknowledgement: Immediately express appreciation. Value people beyond the tasks they complete or their role.
• Accountability: Managers must take responsibility.
• Alignment: This involves both crafting and communicating a vision, and then ensuring that employees buy into this purpose.
• Answers: The manager isn’t always the one who has them.

Teams must be able to spontaneously form and reform and be truly inclusive. The “matrix” organizational structure works best here; teams can be reformed and re-created at any time, and the organization can be responsive to the rapid rate of business change. Individuals feel loyalty and a sense of belonging to the organization, not to any individual team (or silo). The challenge is that it requires real leaders— managers who truly believe in empowered and independent employees. The reins must be loosely held, if at all. Hierarchical structures have too much inertia; they can’t respond quickly enough.

Dynamic teams mean the share-everything culture of SOA includes people and processes, not just services. But this also needs to extend up the organization. Without corporate-level buy-in, there’ll be a tendency for middle management to revert to silos and internal competition. They’ll hoard their resources, especially their best people, vying for an edge.

In most companies, business units compete more with each other than competitors. When no one owns the people, the processes, or the services, this alone might force a closer working arrangement, but it doesn’t bring their goals into alignment. Everyone must be clear on corporate goals and agree to them. They must share a vision and culture that overrides personal or business unit objectives. Culture is the core set of values and assumptions people share. Too often, this is assumed or unclear. In creating, communicating, and achieving buy-in for the culture, vision and values, executives can really lead, instead of managing and controlling.

But a challenge for all management is giving up control, power, and the use of fear. It has to be all about learning, and learning happens only in a safe environment. True collaboration is defined as “a mutually beneficial relationship between two or more who work toward common goals by sharing responsibility, authority, and accountability.” (See Roger Schwarz, The Skilled Facilitator: A Comprehensive Resource for Consultants, Managers, Trainers and Coaches, Jossey-Bass, 2002.)

Notice the emphasis on sharing. First, the goals must be common; next, learning must be more important than control. Roger Schwarz created the “Facilitated Leader” approach, which supports mutual learning. Anyone can be a facilitative leader, regardless of their title or position. Facilitative leaders collect and share all information and they listen without judgment until all views are heard. The goal is a free, open commitment to a decision from each team member. Such leaders are noted by their curiosity, transparency, and joint accountability.

To create a flexible team, each member must commit to:

• Testing all assumptions
• Sharing all the data
• Agreeing on definitions
• Being willing to explain both reasoning and intent
• A balance between inquiry and advocacy
• Jointly designing an approach and solution
• Believing that each team member is acting with integrity
• Being open to discussing the tough stuff.

Executives can support this by creating a new budget model that rewards facilitative leadership and increased collaboration. Business units can’t be competing for budget dollars, or the matrix teams won’t earn support. They’ll want to own the best people and will always figure out a way to get the most money they can for their own interests.

Summary

SOA without SOO is a recipe for disaster. The share-everything, people-centered organization offers each employee empowerment and fosters engagement and commitment. Whether applying matrix management or facilitated leadership, the organization must be an open and evolving organization, responding to unpredictable environmental change as needed for its own survival.

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