Imagine if you will – you’ve recently started a new role as General Manager. You’ve spent a few weeks listening to people and identifying success barriers and passion bleeders. You’ve introduced the team to the concept of radical management and started off on the journey to lay the foundations.
And in Week 6 of your new role, an external internet hosting provider has a major crash that results in the loss of five months of critical business records, including membership, education and training databases, a formal register of the profession, communications and website updates, among other things.
When a crisis of this magnitude occurs, it can have dramatic impacts. In my case at ACPSEM, as well as the obvious work that had to be done to recover the business records, we were faced with a senior person who is only available part-time having to put all work on hold for two weeks, other staff members doing similarly while the remaining few picked up the usual work that had to be completed during this time, the employment of casual assistance, calls to members for assistance … and even the team that was already instituting radical management had to stop and spend inordinate time providing recovery information.
Then there are the questions that are being asked: Why weren’t we following the manual back-up procedure that had been designed and approved two years ago (and hadn’t been followed for about a year)? Why weren’t we getting any assistance from the service provider? What about projects A, B and C that are being delayed? What was I, as new General Manager, going to do about this and why didn’t I know procedures weren’t being followed?
I have identified another barrier to introducing radical management to an organisation. A crisis of this magnitude will have an impact on the way we lead, the way people react, the confidence and trust they feel, the workload that can be carried. In my last post, I mentioned that foundations had to be laid for radical management, but an incident like this tends to lead to retreat rather than additional evolution – it is unlikely that we will get quick approvals to change any policies!
On the other hand, the way that the problems were addressed were very much in the manner of radical management, because we didn’t have much choice. Each person knew their own area and used their own expertise with minimal management, lots of communication, task leadership, lots of responsibility for completing work on time and with minimal supervision. They also utilised User Stories to identify missing information that they wouldn’t know about because they weren’t responsible for its production. I couldn’t help much, other than by taking standard tasks off their hands, because I don’t have the knowledge or expertise.
Unfortunately, many may view this as a reaction to an abnormal situation, reasonable in a crisis situation, but not the way to operate generally when rigid adherence to traditional management command and control may have prevented much of the damage.
One other impact – I found myself retreating into a traditional management style. When a staff member came to me with a proposal not connected to the crisis, I stopped listening and reacted with concerns about budgets and why such a plan was required. I started to question this proposal because I was still reacting to the crisis, instead of acknowledging the expertise of the staff member and trying to add value to their plan.
I raised this at the next stand-up meeting and put everyone on notice – I can retreat from my words, and my actions won’t always align with them – they should pull me up on it when it happens.
So, interesting times. The journey will continue. And there was one other impact … it kept me busy and away from writing posts for quite some time!