8 questions about organizational management

8 answers to management questions from an open point of view

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I recently saw the following questions on a survey about organizational management, and decided to answer them from my open organization point of view. I'd love to hear how others in the open source world would answer these questions, so leave some comments and tell us what you think!

What does good management look like?

Good managers are candid enablers who give me full context, trust me to do my job, and clear a path for me. They are honest, reflective, and human. They stand up for their teams, call out unnecessary bureaucracy, offer advice when asked, and work with me, rather than telling me what to do. They are mentors, colleagues, peers, and serve only to support me, not to "manage."

What kind of management culture are you looking for?

To create real change in global societies and behaviors, we need a management culture that thinks of staff as equals and does everything in its power to enable them. We need people who work together to ensure silos don't develop. We need people who are passionate, courageous, and kind—non-competitors who are part of an organization because they believe in the mission not because they were recruited to "deal with people."

What are the types of management you have seen work well?

Managers who adjust their styles based on the personalities they're working with are the most successful. Some people need more structured feedback and work plans, others need to be treated with the intellectual curiosity and respect. There is not one type of management to rule them all. Different people need to be supported in different ways. Managers need to facilitate teams.

As for specific models, I believe that organizations should move away from hierarchy-based models and begin to think about meritocracies, flexible project teams, creating agility within an organization. There are a number of new models to experiment with. No one should have to ask their boss to be able to work. It's not productive, it's demotivating.

What are the behaviors you think managers should model?

This is tough to answer in such short form. Managers should write and publish openly and often about the work they're doing, so that teams can gain a full perspective. They should be honest about the politics involved with decisions. They should all have regular meetings with their teams, as well as regular one-to-ones. They should be clear about why certain decisions are made. Hide nothing. Be curious and encouraging to staff's ideas. Allow people to fail and congratulate them on it.

In short, managers should be the first to behave like they understand that living and working in the connected world is tricky. They should openly question themselves and the world around them and provide mentorship for their teams. None of us know all the answers, so let's not pretend like we do.

What do you think the main functions of a management team should be?

Management teams should understand their function as coordinators and not leaders. Management in large, traditional organizations are put in place based on... well, likely tenure, organizational knowledge, and personal relationships, rather than merit. We need to challenge the assumption that someone is a good manager just because she or he has been in an organization for 15 years. We need to create career pathways for people who are not "people" managers, but creative leaders—and not just in the engineering department.

How can management improve?

Management teams are ineffective where there is zero visibility up the chain of command. If staff don't know what is expected of them, and directors / international directors don't seem to care, staff become disengaged. This is a big problem, but the first step to improving it is to get managers to check their egos and start being transparent about their day to days.

What is the best way for managers to keep you informed?

If staff is included from the start, then they won't need to "be informed." We should be having open discussions, open debates, and open paths for people.

How well do you think operational and program teams support each other?

Program functions do much better (and staff are much happier) when operational teams don't hamstring them. HR can make it hard to find, and more importantly, keep talent by rigidly following policies and rules that no longer make sense. Finance can make it hard to fund innovation by forcing the expenditure of a yearly budget in order to maintain a yearly budget. IT policies can make it hard for modern teams to evolve and work in a distributed environment by rejecting support or shutting down conversation around technical changes.

Whatever the situation, a culture of scolding and ostracizing people who suggest something that doesn't "follow policy" is a dangerous precedent. If the policies are outdated, they should be challenged, and management should support the people who have ideas to make the organization a better place to work.

About the author

Laura Hilliger - Laura Hilliger is a writer, educator and technologist. She’s a multimedia designer and developer, a technical liaison, a project manager, an open web advocate who is happiest in collaborative environments. She’s a co-founder of We Are Open Co-op, an Ambassador for Opensource.com, is working to help open up Greenpeace, and a...