The Holy Grail of Self-management

Stop overthinking. Start doing. Improve from there.

Needs in governance

What needs are likely to come up in governance? Imagine, for example, we are discussing work hours — should team members have fixed work hours or not? Having fixed work hours might meet our needs for alignment and effectiveness. It might even play into belonging and cooperation. After all, how can we cooperate with clarity and feel connected to co-workers if we don’t even know when they are around? On an erratic, unpredictable schedule, some might find it hard to align with their co-workers.

  • As an organization, we understand that some basic structure supports shared reality and cooperation but we also want to be spontaneous and authentic in the moment. (This corresponds somewhat to the example on flex time.)
  • We want to give everyone in the organization autonomy but we also want to make sure there is enough coherence so we work towards a shared purpose. We want to know that every activity in the organization is coming together at some point, while also wanting trust for each member to know what they’re doing without being micro-managed.
  • We want clarity and stability so we can build competence but we also want to learn and improve — for some people (like me!), that’s about play and stimulation. On the side of stability, we also realize we have to try new things from time to time to get better at what we do.
  • We want to have tried and tested solutions but we’re also unique. In other words, we want to be effectiveand competent but we also want self-expression and choice. We want to be pragmatic and action-oriented but we also want to be considerate and aligned with our mission.
  • predictability ←→ spontaneity
  • autonomy ←→ alignment/shared purpose
  • stability, competence ←→ exploration, learning
  • effectiveness and efficiency ←→ self-expression and choice

Strategies to meet needs

That’s a lot of needs right there! There are many strategies (=concrete actions) promising to meet those needs, and some strategies work better for some than for others.

So what?

We’re all different in where we fall on each “polarity” and what strategies work for us. Within any organization, there will be differences that need to be attended to. But also — and more importantly for this article — entire organizations will be different. Each organization will fall slightly differently on each “polarity”.

The question is: what’s best for us?

I see a few organizations who catch the self-management bug waver around a bit. Some even fall apart arguing about what governance system to use or whether they should decide at all.

However: my other big worries

I see quite a few organizations catch the self-management bug and then struggle with issues that have been solved a long time ago — they want to figure out everything themselves because it’s self-management. That’s throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If self-management means that every organization has to reinvent the wheel, we’re not going to get far, and — my other very big worry — we are likely to replicate the biases we already carry.

It’s all about balance

  • Sweeping statements about governance methods are probably inaccurate.
  • Be aware of the needs you would like to prioritize. Find a system that will meet those needs. Stay alert and consider the needs you might not be meeting.
  • Start somewhere solid, evaluate what works for you and improve, without dogma.



Sociocracy, Non-Violent Communication, Linguistics

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