The MWT Book(s) introduce the MWT Model in more detail than this web site. Supporting books introduce MWT Collaboration Architectures for particular industries or project types.

There is more to the MWT Model than this web site. The ManageWithoutThem book is due for release in 2009 (oops). The book introduces the MWT model and provides an example of its use in delivering certain types of IT projects.

Draft of manuscript (pdf)

Extract

Preface “There is this thing called being so open-minded that your brains fall out”

– Richard Dawkins – Biologist / Author of ‘The Blind Watchmaker’

As naïve as I am today I can at least assert that I’ve tried to live my life in a manner which progressively improves my intellectual maturity. I conceived of this book in a time of youth, bravado, and a good many bad decisions. Some of the initial ideas were ultimately questionable – read ‘wrong’ – but necessary steps in my thinking and catalysts to valuable – if not always pleasant – experiences.

I’m glad my natural caution, life’s distractions, romantic adventures, and – let’s face it – my tenancy to procrastinate, have delayed my writing and publishing these ideas until I can honestly declare that the management transformation I propose is consistent with all of my experience. This is the case even where no specific research or examples are cited in these pages.

While I now feel I can stand by these ideas, I certainly don’t consider them complete. What I’m presenting is enough of a framework for a new management model such that a commitment to the management transformation can be made. I intend to continue to develop the model as I continue to learn about organisations and my place in them. I also intend to continue to read the work of others and recommend anybody interested in the ideas presented in this book to do the same. I have come to my conclusions through a process of experimentation in the field. From what I have read on the academic literature on the use of markets in firms it is also possible to deduce similar conclusions from theoretical grounds. I urge organisations to ensure at least one senior executive – perhaps even a dedicated institutional economist within your organisation (a Chief Institutional Economist perhaps?) – who understands the most technical elements of the way markets work and create incentives. If the MWT Model is to be implemented effectively an internal commitment to developing internal market indicators aligned to the organisation’s differentiated and unique corporate strategy will need to be made.

Appointment of the Chief Institutional Economist will also prepare organisations for the possibility of a future where Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) style compliance becomes less process focused and more [internal] market focused (see Chapter xxxx). I see a future when the need for directors to sign off on financial statements will be supplemented by the need to sign-off on specific internal market indicators and to state that these internal markets operate freely and perhaps without associated internal ‘black’ markets.

Even if the over-legislation inherent in laws such as the SOX laws is eventually recognised and the laws are repelled there is a growing recognition that senior executives who focus primarily on financial reports are missing not only intangibles but also valuable information on the ‘trust flows’ and internal markets within organisations (see Chris Macrae in Chapter xxx). The MWT Model is the basis for a management model which would allow non-political reporting of the real state of an organisation without needing to rely on filtered data provided by managers with a vested interest in obscuring the data, or relying on a utopian approach based on total automation and/or command-and-control based organisation (See calculation debate and lessons from economics in Chapter xxx).

Implementation of the MWT Model is excelerated by its success. However, I believe it has been said that just as the initial spark of an idea requires an open mind, its implementation requires a steadfast single-mindedness of purpose that can only be found in the closed-minded. I’m also wary that that perhaps it should be difficult to implement or even think too deeply about bad ideas. But what I have found when implementing the MWT Model is that while it’s results are appriciated the response to the ideas themselves could be quite hostile.

At first I was merely trying to make improvements to small parts of the organisation. What I found difficult was to get support for what were simple improvements to how managers should behave. The managers themselves seemed unreceptive. As I mentioned I was naïve. My vague feeling that there was something wrong with the way organisations were being managed grew stronger. But I didn’t yet have the knowledge or experience to articulate what exactly was wrong. However, I was new to the workforce and thought that maybe while many of the things going on around me seemed intuitively ludicrous there was perhaps very good reasons for them.

I was wrong. They were ludicrous. And as much as I’ll always stand by the power of logic and rational thinking I believe there is something about the way human beings are wired which allows them to feel when things aren’t right. This feeling we all get that the organisations we work for are turning feral should not be ignored.

Five years ago, when I started researching this book and thinking critically about the organisations I was becoming part of, my bias was towards action. I took great pleasure – I still do in fact – in changing and controlling the organisations I am a part of. I enjoyed the manipulation of the organisations. I enjoyed playing within their politics and sometimes even watching them break as I pushed them to their limits.

Today I still like toying with organisations. I love opening them up and seeing what makes them tick. Unfortunately, for reasons this book explores, I’ve actually found much less diversity across different organisations than I would have expected. One colleague referred to this as “Same crap. Different logo.” This is regrettable. I believe this lack of diversity is created by the management discipline itself and serves managers more than it does organisations (see collaboration architecture as competitive advantage in Chapter xxx).

So in addition to improved efficiency within the individual organisations, with this book and my consulting career I try to help bring diversity back into our organisations. I’ve always found it a shame that our organisations appear to be converging into a series of bland and indistinguishable cubicle-scapes. But I’m optimistic that forces exist which make a significant shift in the way we manage organisations almost inevitable.

This book views management itself as a technology. Like all technologies it must be used in order for any value to be gained form it. Equally, we should be cautious of applying it indiscriminately to solve the wrong problems. Also, if the technology is available to everybody (which the technology of ‘management’ really is) how to we manage the technology and determine who is using it more effectively. In fact, I ask and answer the question of who in the organisation is actually doing the most management (see chapter xxx on the relationship between the number of stakeholders and the amount of management).

If management is a technology then it is also prone to the same tendency towards obsolescence as any other technology. In fact, if the correct forces exist then the technology should always be improving and the management profession should have a number of new techniques which replace old management technologies. But unfortunately the right forces are not in place and this results in a massive proliferation of what needs to be managed while little progress has been made on how we manage (see chapter xxx).

We have ‘change management’, ‘customer relationship management’, ‘risk management’, ‘issue management’, etc. Some or all of these are great concepts; however, as the management profession specialises and expands on these concepts and builds and fills the gaps of what is to be managed they are in effect building a technology which takes more effort to achieve the same thing. This sounds very much like the technology of management being replaced by something less effective.

It may be true that the world is becoming more complex; and such claims will be made to justify the proliferation of what managed. But Alfred Lord Whitehead’s claim the ‘Civilisation advances by increasing the number of things that can be done without thinking about them’ <<<check>>> raises the bar. I propose that the management process itself, when applied to management (or to anything) tends to make it less effective over time – to make it more complex and certainly more painful to think about to any length of time.

I propose that it is inherent to the management process itself that further management interventions will be required to correct the long-run effects of previous interventions (see chapter xxx on the relationship between governance, big government and management). Six years <<<starting in 2000>>> have passed since I first thought of ‘manage without them’, registered the www.managewithoutthem.com domain name, and started trying to develop an understanding on how organisations really work, I thought I was a pioneer. When I actually tried to discuss alternative ways of viewing organisations with any of my bosses or colleagues this only seemed to confirm that I was pushing boundaries.

However, what surprised me was the abundance of research papers, market trends, news items, and anecdotes that seemed to suggest that the habit of managing without them was already occurring.

It appeared that ‘managing without them’ was gaining popularity on two fronts. In line with my original idea, people were managing without them because that’s what experienced managers had learnt to be a kind of best practice. Others were realising that many of the activities advocated as those important for managers to be spending their time on had become an in joke.

Managers, as you know, also have managers. The more enlightened of which were starting to see that the behaviors of their bosses, while infuriating and counter-productive, were disturbingly similar to the behaviours they themselves were inflicting on their subordinates. Their staff, in reciprocation, were making the same complaints that the managers had seen themselves make earlier in their career.

At first the managers congratulated themselves on their new maturity. The managers were initially pleased with themselves for no longer making such complaints to their managers. But slowly the reality crept in that this wasn’t always because the complains weren’t valid. In fact, what the maturing manager had learnt wasn’t that the complains were naïve but that they would be fruitless…

The other front on which ‘managing without them’ was gaining popularity was with the so-called managed. Again, this group tended to include almost everybody as increasingly there wasn’t a problem from factory floor to corporate board which apparently couldn’t be solved with more ‘management’.

The managed were ‘managing without them’ not because they had undertaken comprehensive research on the pros and cons of intervention-based coordination versus market-based coordination. No, these people were managing without them because they had no choice. They realised the activities being performed by their managers had minimal positive impact on their ability to perform their job or collaborate with others. In extreme cases, these people didn’t know what their managers were doing because their managers were increasingly physically absent. Increasing pressures to manage upwards and outwards had eaten away at their managers’ time.

I continued to look closely at the organisations I was a part of and noticed the behaviours of those people who were the most effective. I noticed some patterns emerging. I also noticed that those who were most effective where not always those who were most recognised or the most successful in their careers. In any case, in these pockets of effectiveness I also saw the diversity and enthusiastic collaboration that was so often missing from the organisations. I started to wonder why these pockets of effectiveness and collaboration weren’t growing. It always seemed that it was more common for one of these pockets to be snubbed out than it was for the group to expand and infect more of the organisation with its competence and enthusiasm.

I’d heard a lot of talk about so-called ‘best practices’ and yet when I found what was obviously the best practices within an organisation nobody appeared to be trying to learn from them or replicate them. I soon learnt that a ‘best practice’ tended to refer to something that was going on outside your organisation and learning from the best behaviours that were already occurring within your organisation didn’t appear to have a name at all!

I wondered what was stopping these intriguing and inspiring behaviours from spreading. I wanted to understand not only what a good organisation looked liked, but also what the barriers where to good organisations. So I started looking at management…

Matthew De George Sydney, Australia, 2005

Introduction – What is management? “It’s a childish impulse to blame the ‘they’. I’ve done it myself. This ‘they’ really means the part of you that allows particular things to happen.”

– Elvis Costello, Mojo Magazine 2002

Firstly, What isn’t Management?

Managers ask many questions. You’ll be right in the middle of a complex customer call, or a tricky piece of coding if you happen to be one of the few software engineers who is still allowed to write code, and your manager wil ask you how long it will take. She’ll ask you to then qualify the length of time it will take and let her know any risks or issues you have. She’ll also, if she’s an experienced manager who has worked with your type before, tell you that you should contact her immediately if you think you wont meet the deadline you just set for yourself[1].

If you don’t warn her that you are going to miss your deadline she’ll ask even more questions. She’ll ask who you report to (but you wont really know for sure) and she’ll threaten to escalate if this isn’t finished by the end of the day. You’ll tell her quite calmly – because you don’t want this to become a conversation about your attitude – that it really isn’t likely to be finished by the end of the day and you have to meet your wife for dinner at 6 o’clock because it’s your wedding anniversary.

Apparently, you must stay back until it’s finished. Through a haze of presumption and disrespect she’ll tell you that this would be the ‘professional’ thing to do. You’re a professional and expected to stay back ‘until the job is done’. You start to explain the problem to her but she evidently doesn’t want to be involved in all of the ‘technical details’. You try to explain the you are just waiting at the moment and that you can check if it worked from home after dinner.

But she wants you ‘where she can see you’. She’s not staying, of course, but if she was stay this would certainly be the place where you’d need to be for her to see you. And now suddenly, after months of conspicuous absence on her part, you mere physical proximity to a pale blue laminate will bring time forward and solve the hitherto unsolvable. She has hinted that she doesn’t really care where you are as long as the problem is solved – but you’ve already indicated that isn’t very likely so she is of course suspicious that it wont be solved.

You’re getting annoyed now you’ll admit. This is exactly why do didn’t think it was a good idea to remove David from the project team. This was supposed to be his job but it wasn’t included in his hand-over tasks because at the time this wasn’t even in the scope of the project. But now isn’t the time to question your manager because this really is a big project and she is under a lot of pressure. Besides it was David’s questions that had him removed. Though it’s alright for him he has a contract for another division already.

But David was right. The questions should have been asked long ago. Managers ask lots of questions and demand answers. They ask ‘how did we get into this mess?’ when you always thought it was their fault. They ask ‘what are you doing at the moment?’ when you thought that’s what they were supposed to tell you. Tough managers ask the tough questions. Hands-off managers ask high-level questions. Hands-on managers ask you to hand them the wrench that you were in fact already using.

This book questions management. That alone will make it seem subversive, unprofessional, and naïve to some. But this shouldn’t be the first reaction. Managers will tell you it’s good to ask questions, that you should be accountable for your actions, and even that it’s okay to be wrong. They will tell you you’re not seeing The Big Picture – even if there isn’t one. They will also tell you that you might be ‘being efficient’ but ‘are you being effective?’. These are good vignettes and noble advice but unless the same questions are asked of management the most important answers will never be revealed.

What exactly is management? Where did it come from? What is the purpose of management? Why are there allowed to be different ‘styles’ of management where in other circumstances this would be considered a wasteful and inconsistent approach? Is bad management really just a matter of style? These are the questions that this book asks of management. When an idea isn’t questioned it remains untested. All too often if that idea is a management idea held by your manager to question the idea is to risk poverty.

Deeply held beliefs are difficult to change and a new branch of management – ‘change management’ – allows managers and the consultants they employ to tell you that you are just resisting change whenever their ideas are questioned. But some of the most change resist people I’ve met are managers (particularly in IT). What managers the managers and what makes them change if nobody asks them questions?

For all the declarations that a ‘good manager can manage anything’ the management profession itself appears reluctant to learn from other disciplines. Questions like ‘what can management learn from economics?’ and ‘what can management learn from information technology?’ and ‘what can management learn from complexity theory and evolutionary biology?’. Some of the greatest insights can be found by applying the rigour of management theory right back onto the management profession itself and asking ‘what can management learn from management?’.