Strategic Leadership in a Self-Managed Organization

Strategic leadership in a self-managed organization:  what does it really look like?

The KCS Book Club recently read a book called Beyond Empowerment: The Age of the Self-Managed Organization by Doug Kirkpatrick.  The group enjoyed reading the book because it walks readers through a description of what a self-managed organization looks like as well as offers tactical steps to take to get there.   It is definitely worth a read.

This book has been very influential at the Apollo Group, where Stacy Riddell, Renee Channon, and Steve McMillan hosted a recent Program Team Meeting.  They shared an update on the efforts they are making to transform their organization closer to one that can be called self-managing.  For them, this is a transition from management to strategic leadership.

During their presentation, they shared that the most immediate impact is felt by the managers.  Their roles change drastically as all employees are encouraged to be accountable and self-managing.  So, as organizations move to this new way of working, what does the role of the manager look like?

Stacy, Renee, and Steve and others at the Apollo Group believe that the role of managers becomes what they call strategic leaders.

  • Strategic leaders take responsibility to set the strategic direction within their self-selected area of impact.  They feel a great sense of responsibility to improve the customer experience and make it easier to do business with that organizational unit.
  • They look more like entrepreneurs than traditional managers.  They lead their area of impact as if it was their own business.  This makes them eager to identify innovations and make wise financial decisions.
  • They hold themselves to very high standards of accountability and deliver results expected and needed by others they interact with.
  • Strategic leaders are always coaching, mentoring and informing others on their efforts, progress, challenges and successes.
  • They are transparent and hold others accountable to deliver what they need to be successful.
  • Most importantly, strategic leaders proactively take responsibility and don’t wait to be asked or told to do so.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on the topic of strategic leadership and what it looks like in a self-managing organization.  I predict that we will be taking more and more about self-management in the future.  Thinking through the implications such as the role of the traditional manager in advance is critical to adoption.

Thanks so much to Stacy, Renee, and Steve for sharing their experiences as they go through this amazing journey.  It is remarkable how far you have come already.  Keep up the good work!

For more information on this discussion, visit the “Energizing Your KCS Implementation” wiki page where notes and presentations are captured.  Members can email Kelly Murray for access to the wiki.

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