Strategic planning and organisation structure in an ever-changing reality — part #1

Strategic planning and organisational structure in an ever-changing reality — part #1

Only those who adapt will survive

It has been some time since I’ve heard these words, but they just keep coming back to me. The world is rapidly changing around us, and so do the systems and organisations.

In the reality of complex solutions, products, and organisations, our approach to management is drastically changing and becomes leaner.

However, it seems that at the same time, one of the most unadapted group of people to change is in the management layer itself — the large group of so-called ‘middlemen’.

Uncertain position of the middleman

cut out the middle man
Photo by Frederick Tubiermont on Unsplash

It seems that the position of the so-called “manager” in a modern company is rapidly evolving, almost to the level of extinction.

It makes continuously less sense for organisations to keep managers who do not possess a certain pragmatic foundation of skills used by the business, such as data science, engineering, etc. The reason is — without hands-on experience, it is very hard to make good project or organisational decisions.

Being an expert in a field is essential

If you start as a field expert (i.e data scientist, software engineer, or financial analyst) you will develop a strong analytical mind, and that value itself will help you to later understand and manage complex technical projects, where it is essential to have insight and experience with certain methodology and analytical thinking to be able to grasp the complexity of the problems of the domain.

Photo by Olav Ahrens Røtne on Unsplash

I am certainly far away from saying that you can become an expert in thermonuclear astrophysics within a night, however, you can adapt and understand the principles of a company operating in a certain field, and working with certain KPIs, provided you have at least achieved a T-shaped profile within one domain.

A holistic experience with a methodology that you have mastered makes it easier to deepen another field of expertise or to reason about it without yet complete knowledge about it.

If we use the illustration below as an example, it goes down to this — you can’t draw an M without a T.

there are even more shapes, but T is a solid starting point

For organisations, it is a far better idea to move the responsibility on the project team (composed of solid T-s) and enforce a result that the project team promises. This way, the ‘manager’, becomes obsolete and can be easily replaced, for instance in the Scrum Project, by a duet of Product Owner and Scrum Master.

Introducing ‘Servant Leadership’

Scrum Master itself, is a great example of so-called ‘Servant Leadership’, which shows that being a leader doesn’t mean whipping the others, it actually means: ‘to serve’. As a Scrum Master, you are not responsible for the strength of the team. Leave it to the professionals, that are part of it. They are responsible for their own strength. All you need to do is make sure the team has all it needs to do its job, and that there is nothing blocking it from moving forward.

Photo by Mathias Jensen on Unsplash

As you can see, there is no mention of ‘governing’ or team ‘management’ when we talk about Scrum Masters. It’s the ‘serving’ principle that matters — so that the team can take 100% credit for their job. That’s what the real SM are accounted for. The ability to make it happen so that everybody is enabled to do their job.

‘Manager’, on the project level (if it exists), takes care mainly about Account Management, conflict escalation, and reporting. That’s more of an administrative job if you think about it, and it is definitely not a full-time position, when it comes to smaller projects, therefore, such a ‘Manager’ can easily handle multiple projects at once.

Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

Now, let’s look at organisational structure. Actually, it turns out that the story repeats itself. ‘Manager’ would only be an unnecessary proxy between organisational departments. The departments can easily delegate a secretary, ‘servant-connector’, who will talk to other entities within the organisation. An efficient department, just like a project team, should be empowered to make its own decisions and be accountable for the results of its actions.

Actually, what each department needs, is not a manager, it’s a Visionary, Leader — similar to PO/SM duet role in Scrum project team.

But it’s harder than that.

Visionaries, not Managers.

That’s why companies hire CTOs, CEOs, etc. (and it’s not an easy job). Those people are directly responsible for the vision and leadership of the entire organisation and its departments. That’s their entire job description, they do nothing more.

These people still delegate direct authority to the departments, however they negotiate and lead the department KPIs, just like Product Owners negotiate new features in their product.

Following this way for example, the HR department should be given a free hand and operability as long as it is able to satisfy the contract made with the Leadership Team, such as number of people that needs to be hired per month / demand or any other Key Performance Indicator that they agree on.

Department KPIs are something that should be driven by a Leadership Team, a small team of people with various competencies — process, people, technical, financial (CTO, CMO, CFO, CHRO, it goes on..)

The visionaries are accountable for the quality of their visions and ability to persuade or influence others to follow their ideas and put them into action.

In the next part of the series I am having a closer look at Management 3.0, importance of Emotional Intelligence, Agile Madness and Hopes for the Future in regards to strategic planning and organisational structure.

Continue reading part #2 here:

Strategic planning and organisation structure in an ever-changing reality — part #2

Strategic planning and organisation structure in an ever-changing reality — part #1 was originally published in ableneo Process on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.