Monday 20 July 2020

Breaking Free From People Management

You can download this article as a PDF here.

DC (during corona) and AC (after corona) are both exciting, once in a lifetime opportunities to break free from the status quo when sameness is no longer serving you, or our world.

In organisation's I believe this means taking the opportunity to break free from people management and the terrible twins, change and performance management. People, change and performance cannot be managed!

My alternative to these three relics is Heart-Leadership.

Heart-Leadership is the new normal. Heart-leadership is a digitally savvy, human centred design approach to the 3 pillars of a thriving modern enterprise -
 people leadership, process innovation and progress sustainability.

Hear Your Heart (People leadership) is the art of seeing, sometimes unearthing, mostly magnifying and enhancing people's essence including your own.

Ask Your Head (Process innovation) is the collaborative work of ensuring processes make it simple for people to bring their essence to their work. (NB processes include policies, procedures, practices, philosophies, principles, structures and systems).

Engage Your Hands (Progress sustainability) is the joyful craft of ensuring progress towards possibility (desired new reality, shared goal/objective/aim) is kept visible.

Below is an excerpt from my soon to be released Heart-Leadership book. It's from the first Sparkenation (a spark that ignites passion that leads to action that changes what's normal) in the book called Harmony Matters.

My first email address when I began self-employment in 1990 was harmonymatters@. It was in part a statement of my fundamental belief that the best in life happens when we are in harmony with ourselves, other people and our planet.

The idea of harmony is perhaps best illustrated in the ancient Chinese philosophy of yin and yang.

"Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. According to this philosophy, everything has both yin and yang aspects (for instance, shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation.” 

My first newsletter for my clients in 1990 was called ‘Harmony Matters’. I wrote about overcoming the conflict, difficulty and disagreements in relationships and organisational life and how seeking and sustaining harmony between what sometimes seemed to be opposing forces was a key to happiness and bringing our best to our work.

I observe many apparent opposing forces in the workplace. I make a difference to my clients through work with them that brings these forces together in harmony.

Relationships and tasks,
Processes and outcomes,
Commitment and competency,
Influence and standards,
People and systems,
Effectiveness and efficiency,
Growth and sustainability,
Bosses and employees,
Masculine and feminine,
Leadership and management,

to name just a few areas where there can be tension that is not helpful and therefore achievements are far less than what is possible.

The great disharmony is between leadership and management. It’s caused by business owners, bosses, executives and shareholders holding onto the concept of people management, an oxymoron if ever there was one.

I will argue strongly here that people cannot be managed and that the concept, like traditional religion, modern day politics of all persuasions, and profit driven corporations, the concept is actually about controlling the masses for the benefit of a few people.

Traditional management owes it roots to many people. For our purposes here I’ll refer to five people, Henry Fayol, Frederick Taylor, Peter Drucker, Mary Parker Follett, and Marvin Bower.

Henry Fayol was a French engineer and mining executive. He and his colleagues are responsible for the planning, organising, staffing, directing, and controlling model still practiced by many today. Fayol lived from 1841 - 1925.

At the same time as Fayolism as it was often known as, Frederick Taylor, also an engineer was creating what he called ‘scientific management’. He became one of the first management consultants of the kind that I personally despise, they have solutions and are out looking for problems. Taylor published The Principles of Scientific Management  in 1911.

Taylor's concept was based on the following four principles:”
1) Replace rule-of-thumb work methods with methods based on a scientific study of the tasks.

2) Scientifically select, train, and develop each employee rather than passively leaving them to train themselves.

3) Provide "Detailed instruction and supervision of each worker in the performance of that worker's discrete task" (Montgomery 1997: 250).

4) Divide work nearly equally between managers and workers, so that the managers apply scientific management principles to planning the work and the workers actually perform the tasks.”

Of course there’s value in the ideas of Fayol and Taylor and other management theorists. Today I apply their insights to process and not to people, hence my concept of process innovation being one of the three pillars of heart leadership, the other two being people leadership and progress sustainability. I believe process innovation is 21st century management.

Heart-Leadership overall is an alternative to people, performance and change management. It’s about leading people and managing processes, all the while ensuring that progress is sustainable.

The so-called father of management Peter Drucker was onto this a long time ago.

Sadly many people forget Drucker’s edict - “One does not manage people—the task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of each individual.”

Drucker defined leadership as “The lifting of man’s vision to higher sights. The raising of a man’s performance to a higher standard. The building of a man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.” 

Accepting that language in the 1950’s was very masculine what I don’t accept is that the majority of these pioneers of management ignored the feminine energy and therefore encouraged further disharmony.

Largely ignored in her day because she was a women my hero is Mary Parker Follett who in 1924 wrote:

“Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power 

but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led.

The most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders.”

Instead of emphasising industrial and mechanical components, or seeing people as replaceable cogs in an organisational machine, as many of her contemporaries advocated, Follett saw what for her was the far more important human element.

In many circles we persist in referring to people as resources, as assets, or as capital, the other dreadful yet common expression. In my mind such labels suggest that people don’t matter, only the organisations balance sheet matters.

I am all about changing this. I am doing so with great respect for the many people I know who have HR in their career title. I know their label doesn’t signify who they really are or what they do.

Trying to manage people is the great disharmoniser. People cannot be managed.

Performance and change cannot be managed either. People, performance and change management, along with strategic planning are the great oxymorons of business.

I repeat, Heart-Leadership is an alternative to people, performance and change management. The Strategic Heartistry program that I co-created with Susan Furness is an alternative to strategic planning.

Heart-Leadership and it’s three pillars is the great harmoniser. It puts people first and leads to people feeling valued, living values and delivering and exchanging value.

Turning Possibility Into Reality - further suggested actions

1) See every person as a leader.

2) Make leadership development a priority. Start by reading this excerpt from the book ‘The Will To Lead’ by Marvin Bower, McKinsey’s managing partner from 1950 to 1967. He was ahead of his time advocating the abandoning of command and control structures long before most people.

3) Remove over time the words resources, assets, capital where they refer to people from all your language, documents and titles.

4) Ensure all your design is human-centred.

5) Put people first in all the interactions and transactions of your business.

6) Look for the harmony point between what seem like opposing forces.

7) Take the actions recommended in the sections to come.

Do Your Work. 

Be remarkable.

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