Self management. A solution to organizational disappointments?

Delia Pușcă

9 minutes read

Facebook, Google or Apple. These are some of the companies you’ve probably heard a lot about, in terms of management and organization – they are corporations with tens of thousands of employees, perhaps the strongest global brands, at least in terms of value, reputation and perception by users.

Well…in their case, decisions are made strictly at the highest level, and the rules can change from day to day, but what would you say if you hear that there are other companies, also with tens of thousands of employees, but who adopted a different organizational model, like “self-management”?

AES, BSO / Origin and Morning Star are just a few examples. Each has suffered many changes, implemented new systems, changed performance indicators or simply went through centralization and decentralization. The conclusion? Those solutions don’t seem to have brought a solution, more than that they sharpened the hierarchical pyramids even more, and this created a different organization system.

And the alarm signal is not recent at all. This is also confirmed by the data collected between 2014 and 2016 from 155 international companies, for a Gallup study. The results showed that only 15% of employees are dedicated to their work and engaged in daily work. What remains to be done to increase the level of employee engagement?

Is it possible to manage without managers? In his book, Frederic Laloux presents the evolution of organizations – what are their principles, and which of them would fit, perhaps a little better, to the current problems.

It’s said that there is no perfect recipe, but we certainly believe in perspectives, new horizons and progress, and humanity has shown this to us over time. At the same time, it shows us daily how we are used to blaming each other, how we are always looking for “scapegoats,” how our personal pride dictates our activities, and how we choose to criticize before trying to understand everyone’s reasoning.

Is self-management right for any company?

When we talk about self-management, it is assumed that all employees are professionals and manage to organize themselves, to come up with initiatives, to work efficiently and, of course, to complete their work. Is it that simple? Can a single person hold so many roles at once?

Before implementing or approving membership in such a management system, a very simple test is recommended, which can clarify many things: the Belbin test, developed in the late 1970s.

The Team role is defined by Meredith Belbin as “a person’s specific tendency to behave, contribute and interact with others”. He identified 9 main roles, which can take positive or negative forms depending on the team. The same theory highlights the fact that a person can have up to three – four main roles, which they approach differently. In addition, of course, there may be other roles that can be activated when certain situations require it. At the same time, the theory doesn’t rule out the existence of totally inappropriate roles, which should be completely avoided.

Belbin’s roles

  1. action-focused roles: Shaper, Implementer, Completer Finisher
  2. relationship-oriented roles: Coordinator, Team-worker, Resource Investigator
  3. brain roles: Plant, Monitor Evaluator, Specialist

In conclusion, different roles are useful in different situations, and teams can only be supported when their need is correctly identified. A balanced coordinator may be needed for conflicts, a good trainer is needed for poor performance or a suitable evaluator is needed for crisis situations.

The Belbin test can be a good foundation before any change in management, especially for self-management. In addition, beyond the roles that each employee can play, regular evaluations are also important. In times of change, they can be even more eloquent, especially if we take into account that not every employee wants a strategic role in the company or, if he wants, doesn’t always have the necessary know-how. The development of entrepreneurial skills is, therefore, another brick for the foundation of successful management.

In a self-management organization, the classic pyramid is broken down into collinear points, the points being represented by equal employees for whom competitiveness means strictly the fight for innovation, for collective progress and results. Promotions don’t exist anymore, employees should have the freedom to act, as long as they have proven their skills.

And … according to the principle “Let’s give Caesar what is Caesar’s” this means avoiding chaos between departments: technical managers will intervene and innovate in their area of expertise, financial specialists will provide the right formula for stability and progress, and experts in image will not overlap with representatives of the judiciary, right? Maintaining the same terms would mean exercising correctly a form of control.

“Control is necessary and useful. And natural systems need control: our bodies, for example, need a certain temperature to stay within certain limits, otherwise we risk dying,”

says Frederic Laloux in his guide to reinventing organizations. His ideas and research are already influencing how more and more global companies are choosing to change the way they operate.

And you? Would you like to be part of a company with a self-management system?

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Written by Delia Pușcă


Journalist by profession for over 10 years, but converted to public relations and human resources. I appreciate good manners and the art of communication in all its forms. I consider that elegance in behavior is the most precious prerogative, a principle according to which I guide my entire activity.

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