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Should Companies Do Away with Traditional Managers?

September 14, 2015

traditional managers

The concept of holacracy is getting a lot of attention in the business world lately as many major companies are adopting this idea and ridding themselves of the managerial position. But is this the right move? According to holacracy.org, this structure “removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles, which can then be executed autonomously, without a micromanaging boss.”

One company that announced 18 months ago that its organizational structure would no longer contain job titles and put everyone in charge of their own work lost about 14% of their employees (about 200 people), who accepted severance rather than participate in the company’s new organizational structure.

This concept seems extreme and completely ignores the fact that the managerial role is one of value that, when performed properly, carries great benefits for employees, customers and a business’ bottom line. I believe the manager’s role to be of the utmost importance and highly credit an empowered and enthusiastic management team for allowing me to be more effective in the performance of my own CEO responsibilities, not to mention the responsibilities of those whom they manage.

Unfortunately, and unfairly, the manager takes the blame for the shortcomings of the way many companies are structured. When things go wrong, the manager is usually blamed. Rather than eliminating the managers’ role, we must redefine it. Consider the following:

  • Rethink traditional roles. Managers are NOT the problem. The traditional role of the manager is the problem. If we put the manager in an organization that is designed (intentionally or not) to maintain the status quo, kill creativity and fear risk taking, why are we surprised when the manager exhibits this behavior? The “micromanager” is often a symptom of an organization that is perfectly designed to generate this result by not promoting a culture of empowerment and by not giving the manager the tools and training to develop his or her team.
  • Articulate organizational clarity, regardless of structure. Managers often are vested with responsibility but lack proper authority or tools to execute on the company’s strategic objectives. At this point, managers justifiably are frustrated, and that frustration spills over to the front lines. Once again, the problem is not with the manager per se, it’s with a company’s failure to communicate structures, values and accountability and appropriately empower its managers.
  • Develop your managers. This role requires one to clearly communicate, promote accountability and lead. And again, is this the manager’s problem or is it a problem in how executives develop them? Consider that many managers were promoted from front line positions due to their work ethic and technical competence. These attributes don’t necessarily prepare someone to manage people in today’s business environment. The hiring of managers via promotion from within will work best if there is an accompanying plan to develop the high potential employee into an effective “manager of people” first and foremost. Somehow, many of us have bought into the contrast between a “leader” and a “manager.” In reality, our best managers are leaders. Are we making the appropriate effort to identify managers who are leaders?
  • Today’s manager is the key to ensuring that your culture permeates throughout the entire business. A healthy culture is the convergence of the right people and process. It is about the right behaviors, philosophies and attitudes. Our cultures must be leader-driven and employee-owned. Today’s manager ensures that all employees are behaving in alignment with the company’s values, strategy and mission. Today’s manager looks beyond technical skills and KPIs’ to ensure that unwanted behaviors are eliminated from the company (i.e., lack of empowerment, status quo thinking, and micromanaging). Today’s manager kills waste and bureaucracy and establishes trust at the foundation of all relationships.

When it comes to our company’s growth and execution of its mission, there must be some level of management structure. Rather than eliminate the manager all together, ensure you have the right people in place who can lead your team to excellence by promoting creativity and empowerment.


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About The Author

Brian Fielkow is the CEO of Jetco Delivery in Houston, Texas, and is a regular speaker on the topic of company culture. He is author of Driving to Perfection: Achieving Business Excellence by Creating a Vibrant Culture.

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