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March 23, 2007

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Over at Organizations and Markets, Peter Klein has something very interesting to say about  "under-management."   " Sure, we can worry along with Bob Sutton [author of The No-Asshole Rule] about abusive bosses. But what about bosses who exercise too little authority?" He quotes Anne Zelenka, who writes that: " Starfish organizations, so the claim goes, work mainly via flat and collaborative peer networks, not by the practice of top-down leadership or management. This might make you think that management isn’t necessary in the new world of work and business enabled by the web. Yet even so-called starfish organizations like Wikipedia and Craigslist rely on some sort of governance structure and effective leadership to succeed."

I couldn't agree more. In fact, I found exactly exact same thing in my studies of the software industry, and I wrote about the need for "soft-management" in Rise.  Open-source software development has a governance structure of peer review which one commentator called a "brutal meritocracy."  My essay with SAS Institute founder Jim Goodnight in Harvard Business Review tried to detail how that company manages.  I recall asking Jim what SAS does with slackers. He said simply: "We throw them out."

The creative age requires management. But not top-down industrial style, always looking over your shoulder kind of management. Peter's post got me thinking about what I've learned after many years of studying large companies like Toyota, high-tech Silicon Valley startups, research environments, and creative people.

So here are my five  keys to management in the creative corporation.

  • Use  intrinsic rewards to motivate people. Figure out what people crave. Whether it's challenge, excitement, working with great people on great projects, make sure they get it in their jobs and work.   
  • Treat everyone as an individual on their own terms. Make sure their job and tasks fit their interest and strengths. Junk the whole policy non-sense. Recognize that everyone is different, works differently and needs different things to succeed.
  • Create great infrastructure and environment which helps people and takes care of their basic needs and doesn't get in the way.  Get rid of red tape.  Make sure people don't have to spend their time doing non-creative, non-productive things. Make sure their mind and full talents are on the job.
  • Use performance-based system with clear metrics to hold people accountable.  Identify people who make other people more successful and effective. Reward high-performers and stars, not seniority.  Coach and mentor average and low performers to make them better.  Work on better job fit.
  • Show squelchers, "assholes, " and slackers the door.

I'd love to know what others have experienced, what folks like and what they can't stand, and any examples of companies that get it, or don't?


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» Internal Motivation VS External Influence from Incentive Intelligence
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