Do you need your manager?

Published on 2012-02-28

Source: Rameshng @ Flickr
I WAS RECENTLY READING AN ARTICLE in the Harvard Business Review discussing a highly profitable, manufacturer of tomatoes called Morning Star, which employs no managers.
Yes, you read that right, NO managers.
Each individual has a personal mission statement, and understands how they contribute to the success of the overall mission.  The article discusses how each individual is responsible for acquiring the training, skills and supplies they need to accomplish their mission. Of course, many of you, like me, probably immediately applied it to your own working situation.  Perhaps you had a slight grin, thinking about firing your manager, or perhaps you got tense, as you yourself are a manager!
This got me thinking about the greater context of China.  Could organizations, especially with “needy” generations  like the children of the 80s and 90s begin to use this method, and if not, how long before they could? A year, ten years, never?
A similar methodology to that of Morning Star’s can be seen in parenting.  Parents researching child rearing and psychology have probably come across the “Ferber” method of child rearing.  The idea is that you let a newborn child cry until it cries itself to sleep.  This way, it will learn t be self sufficient, and not cry every time it wants attention. Of course this requires the compliance of both parents, (and sometimes grandparents), which is easier said than done.  Tolerating a crying child is a parent’s choice, and as my mother always reminded me “You don’t get to choose your parents!”.  However, we do choose the organisations where we work.
Returning to the original topic, could you imagine your organisation without managers?  Wouldn’t this be the perfect remedy for the employees of these needy generations.  Would removing any support network, or forcing them to access it themselves, push them to be better employees? Would they stop crying…eventually?  Or would they find a new organisation?
It’s always nice to step back from our day-to-day efforts and think about what it is we are trying to achieve.  Have we been approaching our problems all wrong?  Are we preventing growth, from providing too much guidance and direction?  Would a world without managers be liberating?
Or frightening?