Complexity Everywhere

We are living in an ever-increasing complex world. Stephen Hawking, one of our greatest physicists ever once said at the end of the 20th century: I think the next century will be the century of complexity. New management approaches are necessary to enable organizations to survive in those complex and ever faster-changing environments. In his book Management 3.0 published in 2010, Jurgen Appelo presents a management model of the same name that successfully addresses those challenges. Appelo’s Management 3.0 model recognizes that today’s organizations are living, networked systems; and that management is primarily about people and their relationships. Appelo identified six fields of management responsibilities and provides guidance on how to deal with them. At the same time Appelo provides well-proven practices and tools, which he himself successfully uses to date in his own companies. To promote his model and make it available to a broader audience Appelo founded Happy Melly, the company behind Management 3.0.

So, let’s look at the basics

Since decades organizations struggle to answer the same questions:
– How can we motivate our workers?
– How can we change the organization’s culture?
– How can we change the mindset of managers?
– How can we get teams to take responsibility?
– How can we improve teamwork and collaboration?
– How can we get managers to trust their teams?
– How can we make the business more agile?

Based on complexity and systems theory Management 3.0 successfully addresses those questions using a modern, agile management approach. Complexity and systems theory teaches us that there are no laws for dealing with change, uncertainty and complexity. Complex environments can only be addressed with adequate complex systems. Healthy organizations use a diversity of perspectives and assume subjectivity and coevolution; they anticipate, explore, and adapt; they innovate through steal and tweak; they expect dependence on context and keep their options open; they shorten the feedback cycle to quickly respond to changes; they discover the future instead of trying to control it. Management 3.0 considers all those facets and combines them in a modern management style. And yet, Management 3.0 is not another framework or process. Management 3.0 first and foremost is a mindset.

But that’s not the whole story. The Management 3.0 mindset comes along with a pool of proven practices; proven practices you can use as a starting point. Examples are the Delegation Board and Delegation Poker, Moving Motivators, Kudo Cards, the Team Competence Matrix, Storytelling, Culture Books, and the Celebration Grid. But since Dave Snowden and his Cynefin-framework we know that best practices are only existent in simple environments and good practices in complicated environments. In complex environments where we find most of today’s organizations and all the work of the creative industries, practices are always emergent; you start with a practice and it evolves over time. In other words, one practice that worked well for one team must not work well for another team. This implies that adapting to change through permanent feedback rounds is essential to progress and survival. Some decades ago we talked about the first-mover advantage, today we talk about the fastest-learner advantage. Remember, Google was not the first search engine, Amazon not the first online shopping system. Their critical success factor was and is that they belong to the fastest-learner organizations world-wide.

But why is it named 3.0? What do we mean when we talk about Management 3.0?

At the beginning of the 20th century organizations were managed like machines. In this style of management, managers assume that improvement of the whole requires monitoring, repairing, and replacing the parts. In this world employees were considered as parts, too. This is what we call Management 1.0 – Doing The Wrong Thing.

In the middle of the last century top management and human resources departments started realizing that it is more effective to treat employees as humans. They started considering their employees as the most valuable asset. So, they introduced appraisal interviews, bonuses based on agreed targets, social team events, and much more. Managers became Servant Leaders. But organizations were still sticking to hierarchies. Empowerment was telling an employee that she now is responsible for something. Feedback was given from superior to subordinate only. This is what we call Management 2.0 – Doing The Right Thing Wrong.

But some smart guys soon realized that managing an organization is much more like running a community or city; all people can do whatever they want as long as it serves the common goals of the community. Feedback is now given amongst peers, and delegation is seen as empowerment, where empowerment is a synonym for distributed control. Alignment is achieved through common values that form the organizational culture. Organizational structures are a mixture of hierarchy and network. Continuous learning is inherent at all levels and in every team. This is what we call Management 3.0 – Doing The Right Thing.

Those organizations who see change as a chance for improvement will be better off in the future than those organizations who see change as an impediment. So, if your organization wants to be prepared for the future, it’s not an option to look at Management 3.0, it’s inevitable.

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