“Self-management can’t be done on a large scale.” At least that is what we hear a lot when we talk about revolutionizing the way we approach organizational management. In fact, it’s probably the number one retort we get when we talk about self-management in the modern workforce. It was precisely for that reason that Eleccion invited Kevin O’Brien to our February neXtworking event—we wanted to understand how to make self-management work past the “small group” stage.
Kevin—who was a former associate and engineer at W.L. Gore and Associates—shared some key insights and experiences during his time at Gore, which inspired the neXtworking group on how the principles of self-management could work in a group greater than 10 people. Kevin began with the core beliefs of Gore that were foundational in setting the expectations among the workforce. These core beliefs were more than just the standard platitudes that one normally finds in the about section of a company’s website. For example, Gore’s guiding principles included beliefs like freedom, fairness, commitment, and waterline (the idea that you are in charge of your area of responsibility, and if you need to go outside of that, you are empowered to coordinate with others.) These guiding principles drove the way that Gore approaches their management model, as they would ask themselves before implementing anything with the workforce, if it affected their freedom or fairness.
One of the most important aspects of the Gore methodology to management was that there was still structure to the company, it just wasn’t a strict hierarchy like you find in most large corporations or government agencies. Instead, Kevin explained that associates had positions that carried different levels of responsibility to their customers (for example, there were still senior program managers or engineers); however, these positions didn’t carry the weight of management, which meant that despite being a senior engineer, you wouldn’t be a manager over other junior engineers. Instead, the company had a system of “sponsors” that would help and advocate for each other as it came to promotions and compensation.
The neXtworking insights our group took away from the brief time we had with Kevin was invaluable. We feel better enabled to scale self-management at Eleccion and with our clients. It also answered some key questions for us on how we implement a fair performance evaluation and compensation model that aligns with Eleccion’s values.
We very much appreciate Kevin coming to share his experience and insights with us, and we are planning to continue bringing interesting and engaging content to our neXtworking sessions. Stay tuned for our next session!