I don’t doubt that its possible to have an organization with out traditional managers. I’ve read about Semco and Morningstar Farms. I’ve talked to people who work at Gore. My husband works for a less well know firm that doesn’t have traditional managers.
But those companies didn’t get there by happenstance. They got there by design. People chose, designed, evolved practices and structures to support a specific culture. They didn’t take off-the-shelf models of functional or product based organizational structures. They didn’t slide into typical for people management practices, organizational structures, job levels or reporting relationships.
Most companies settle for practices shaped by management thinking of the first half of the last century–without a second thought. The language of this thinking is mechanistic and dehumanizing. It’s the language of efficiency, compliance, hierarchy, rules.
If you want a different sort of company, start with using a different language.
For example, rather than talk about “managing performance,” talk about giving people the information they need to continually improve or sitting down on a periodic basis to examine how we can work better together. Does that feel different to you? It does to me. Those words offer a different set of possibilities.
Because we are talking about people and complex human systems, not moving parts in some vast machine.