Self management

21st century management: Self-management

Imagine a business, where all the staff are, constantly, thinking about ways to increase the profit. Imagine the amount of brain-power working behind that. Now, come back to your business. Is it very different? Are you the only one having sleepless nights when the profit margins are falling? Well, here’s a concept that may interest you. It’s called self-management.

Current management practices were structured around the machine model of business. They were built to leverage manual workers (someone who is employed to do monotonous tasks; for example, in an assembly line of a manufacturing business). But, in today’s Internet-powered world, almost, every working person is a knowledge worker (someone who uses knowledge and creativity to complete tasks; for example, engineers, accountants, academics, etc.). The world has certainly changed from that of a century ago, but most of the management practices, still, remain the same.

Management teams have stuck their heads deep in the sand. They have become too habituated to the century old practices to even think about changing them.

The problem.

Are your projects, either in the process of falling apart or are already upside down? Is, at least, one of your major clients getting increasingly impatient with you and you’re worried they’re not going to give you anymore work? Your family is probably complaining about your unavailability, and meanwhile, your markets and technologies are changing around you a lot faster than you can keep up. You probably, also, have a couple of staff who are at each others’ throats and an important employee is hinting about leaving your business if you don’t pay her more. Too many problems to solve and only 24 hours in a day. What do you do?

Nature has the answers.

You look up to the sky in despair. Suddenly, you notice a flock of birds flying in the sky, high above. Each one of them seem to fly with perfect co-ordination, without any “manager-bird” having to manage them. Then, you feel something crawl over your foot, and, in the next moment, your gaze is transfixed to a swarm of ants moving, in line, carrying food particles, towards the same destination. Is nature trying to give you some hints, you wonder. Maybe, it is.

All systems, in nature, have a natural tendency to self-organize.

If the natural tendency of all systems is to self-organize, why do human beings need managers to get anything done? Well, nature self-organizes because all living things are driven by the will to survive. In a business, the analogue to survival is generating profit. Now think about your individual staff members. What are they driven by? For them, the analogue to survival is making money for themselves and their families. So, why not align “generating profit” with “making money”?

The result would be a concept called profit-sharing. Many businesses may already have profit-sharing, implemented, in the form of bonuses and other incentives. But, if someone asks their staff, how did they get their bonuses or incentives, they’d say, “I do not know and I do not care”.

Your job, as a business leader, is to make them know the process, and as a result make them care about the channel through which they get their bonuses. Only then would they be able to replicate the actions which helped the business to achieve higher profits, which in turn, created those bonuses. Surprisingly, staff is part of a system, which is controlled by a manager who is not a part of that system.

If staff are capable of self-management in their personal lives, then they are well-capable of self-management in their professional lives, too.

Self-managing business.

Management, in business context, is about managing behaviours. And, the best person to manage one’s behaviour is that person, himself. This freedom would create more responsible staff, which, in turn, would lead to a culture that draws out the total creativity, experience and energy of its entire staff towards solving any of the business’s problems. Imagine the power of such a collective thinking; no problem is big enough for such a team!

How to implement self-management?

  • Treat your staff like adults. (Traditional, carrot and stick approach makes them feel like kids who dislike going to school on Mondays.)
  • Offer them freedom and they will take responsibility. (Both goes, hand-in-hand.)
  • Align their needs with your business needs. (Profit-sharing: Business profit = variable salary component, on pro rata basis.)
  • Educate them. (Today, knowledge is power. How can you empower your staff to do things on their own without making sure they have the required knowledge?)
  • Share information. (The whole idea is to make sure someone can step up in your absence. That is only possible if they have all the necessary information. Eg: Things-to-do, Financial health, etc. Do check, Open books management.)
  • Peer-to-peer hiring/ firing. (The right people to do a performance review on a staff member is the ones who work with them, not the managers.)

If you really think about self-management, it is just a little loss of CONTROL, in return for more FREE TIME and more INCOME, and happiness for everyone in your business.


For a practical advice on implementing self-management principles, check this e-book. (Credits to Lanny Goodman.)

Travel transports me to some euphoric placetime. Once there, I, almost, only, meet beautiful people; see places that fill me with pure bliss; and face experiences that inspire me to be more of myself. Then I go back home and write about them. Email: thehoboist[at]gmail[dot]com

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