nobody manages Wikipedians

wikipediaI was reading Daniel Pink’s Drive, and caught myself drifting off into entire episodes which replayed the concept he applied to my real life professional experiences. The balance of the title really is a summation of the entire book, “The surprising truth about what motivates us.” And it is simply that: surprising – but very logical.

Consider this concept: “As organizations flatten, companies need people who are self-motivated… [becoming] more like Wikipedia. Nobody manages Wikipedians.” By cutting out the middle management, one manager oversees more with each person having less visibility. (Drive.) There are many organizations which have been been downsizing; and some of it was middle management. At one time there were numerous layers between myself and the CEO, now there are four (and that is not saying I have any status). It does make sense – as long as the expectations are set and RACI adhered to. That means, people must know what they are responsible for, accountable for, who needs to know what is going on, and spoken with before implementation (consulted and informed). With a staff that is highly driven to excel and does not allow him or herself to become siloed into a position only (aka “that’s not my job”) much can be done with little direction. One manager, where there used to be many, has less direct interaction with the staff and supports from afar unless intervention is needed. This also does away with the micro managers, considering that this larger view and broad reporting structure does not allow for play-by-play updates; if one tried to become a micro manager his or her success would be limited. Call it Peter’s Principle – or inability – but a hands off approach with 10,00o ft views are necessary.

This model can be successful. Consider the example that Daniel Pink has mentioned, Wikipedia. The page is not managed by any one group or body but by interactions among the group and committees with no reporting structure. Another example which has grown in popularity over the years is Open Source software. Same concept – many people come together for a common cause with little to no direct manager or hierarchy to report in to. Yet, the team(s) write, debug, market and continuously repeat this cycle during upgrades or new versions with peer interactions.

The point is that having the right staff, can allow you to get more done with less. Having weak people, or the right person for the company but wrong seat on the bus, may create false demand on other workers, therefor spiraling problems or even worse creating the appearance of staffing needs. Where, in reality, the current situation is not working effectively. This goes back to the RACI model -and as managers we must continuously audit the process and keep our fingers on the pulse. Then, have the ability to recalibrate your team via restructure or remove the party which is creating a log jam.

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resources:

Pink, Daniel H. (2009). Drive: The Suprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books

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