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Change Management

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Self-organization is currently a hype. Although leaders are dedicated to the search for alternative ways to lead people and organizations for more than 40 years, it is now that all over the world the interest for new forms of management arises. We met Anna McGrath – an executive coach, speaker and consultant for self-organization – and had a dialogue along these two questions: What are the prerequisites? What does it take to be successful in the long run?


Anna McGrath explaining the prerequisites and success factors for self-organization

Just to give two examples of organizations that are heading in the direction of self-organization: GORE and Zappos. In 1958 Bill and Vieve Gore started their business and defined 4 principles: freedom, fairness, commitment, waterline. Based on the Type-Y-Model of McGregor they installed a culture along those 4 principles in order to empower people and reduce management to a minimum. For almost 60 years this company has been highly successful and innovative – even with 10.000 employees. Zappos on the other hand started to implement holacracy some years ago to develop their highly innovative culture even further. And there are hundreds / thousands of examples out there.

What are the prerequisites to implement self-organization?

Implementing self-organization means a big change for the whole organization and will last several years. Therefore, Anna focuses strongly on checking the change readiness – she looks especially at 4 factors:

   1. You need a strong why – best case with a business relevance.
   2. The change has to be aligned with the organizational strategy and the aspirational culture.
   3. It needs a strong commitment of management and sponsors who are willing to shift limiting beliefs.
   4. And you need commitments and resources on all levels. It can last weeks, respectively  months, to ensure those
        4 factors – otherwise it wouldn´t make sense to start implementation.

What does it take to be successful in the long run?

You have to be aware that this journey is going to take years. There will be moments when many people would like to go back to a more traditional system. You should make sure not to give up too early. From the very beginning you need to build up competences regarding giving (honest) feedback, facilitating meetings, taking decisions and so on. Especially when your organization is growing over time you have to ensure that the newcomers are trained and made familiar with this system too. And if you get the feeling this new operating system is more a problem than a solution you should develop it further. Each organization needs its adaption over time.

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