Read a collection of very interesting reactions:
Nelson Baird PMP MBA wrote:
I much prefer to manage my teams with a participatory style. I am usually working multiple projects for which I could not possibly either know or keep up with the details of task ordering, issues, etc. in a timely fashion. By providing appriopreate decision scope and encouraging communication across the project, I can get to a better target faster with fewer people.
It does often look like absence of control to the manager whose habit is to micro manage, but I get buy in/ownership from the team, the people want to stay with the team, the team can make many good decisions without my involvement before the fact. Often the team can make better decisions than I would alone. I retain the authority to adjust decisions if needed for strategic or tactical goals.
Jonathan Wilson wrote:
I wonder if it is more that junior people, especially more mature, junior people fear or just can’t be bothered to challenge their bosses rather than that the bosses fear to be challenged? I wonder how much hierarchy is projected from underneath?
By seeking to be employed, are people are already making a statement about how they see themselves and the world? The bigger, older and more governmental, the employer is, the stronger the implicit statement about the self-identity of the person seeking to be employed may be.
Those who enjoy challenging and changing things may tend toward self-employment or becoming employers (or becoming change facilitators!).
Those who like to be employed, find employment and then do challenge in culturally acceptable ways tend to become bosses themselves.
I wonder if most employees believe that their organisation will (and should) protect them from the risks and hazards of the world. So, they seek to stay employed and live peaceably and quietly doing what they are told.
I recall someone saying to me in a workshop, “They can keep their empowerment. If wanted power, I would be a manager myself. I just want to be told what to do, do it and go home to get on with my life.”
The permanent employment illusion can produce perverse situations if you need to make people redundant and so offer redundancy packages to encourage volunteers. The people who you most want to keep are those who are confident enough to seek the redundancy package because they have kept themselves well skilled and believe that they can get a better job. Therefore, the effect of offering generous redundancy is systemically to de-skill and disempower the organisation.
The very best leaders see through the fears and anxieties of their juniors and can empathise with the social pressures that they feel. So they recognise that to engage them in change, to make them feel safe and motivated enough to engage with change may require the extra skills of professional, external facilitators. The very fact that they are external, third parties can be valuable, bringing independence, objectivity and experiences from other firms and people in similar situations. They see that it will also need patient, resourceful resilience to keep gently and firmly trying new ways to involve and motivate their people through the changes needed.
Maybe that is why facilitation is so rare, even when there is evidence to shows that it works well.
Noel Tan wrote:
Albert is quite right…I’d say that hierarchy is a critical obstacle. Hierarchy implies power and reward distribution. Managers may fear ‘ceding’ control because they don’t want to look bad, and in turn fail to head up the hierarchy, lose potential power and rewards. Management style and the response it creates becomes engrained in the organisational culture. To change behaviour, management has to set the right example and to begin rewarding the desired behaviour.
Don McEvoy wrote:
In today’s fast paced world the (perceived) extra time it takes to consider the collective wisdom of a set of stakeholders is one factor clouding the picture for managers but I believe the larger factor is the worry that others will view their group think approach as a personal weakness. Oddly enough, those in the know would see it as a strength!
Adam Bowden wrote:
I’m not so sure the term rare gets to the root of the issue.
Businesses are driven by their culture, i.e people, the demographic mix and their modus operandi to seek new knowledge and methods (Leadership attributes). So … if you were to take say a simple matrix of these categories and multiply together factors (restraining forces) then it would reflect the “rare” aspect you mention.
Thus new knowledge (your training) would indeed impact these categories – my only concern would be to accelerate the cultural acceptance (planned change) which is something I spend a great deal of time doing with Clients.
Jason Diceman wrote:
The “Command and Control” model of management is well established and proven to be efficient. Participatory methods are less efficient in that they require time to ask, listen and ideally discuss options with members of the team. While participatory processes arguably result in better more popular ideas, this is often difficult to recognize in the short term and not likely to be investigated by a boss.
Beyond arguments for efficiency, there is also the inertia of tradition and the egos of bosses.
I can’t attend any workshops in Brussels, but I would love to hear some tips and tricks from those who have succeeded in facilitating change toward participatory management.
Walter Ratcliff wrote:
My experience has been that participation in decision-making is a wave phenomenon. In the SF Bay Area, there is an expectation that stakeholders be identified and involved in project, process design, and problem-solving work. The Project Management Institute has tried to institutionalize procedures for participatory methods to some extent.
Technique and method do not equate to “participation.” I’ve participated in a number of statewide processes recently where the die was cast before the public process began. Lots of hoopla about participation, consultants brought in to design and facilitate the process, but ultimately whole constituencies were shut out and angry about it.
Nor is participatory management a goal. It’s a means to an end. Vroom and Yetton (published years ago) have a useful decision tree explaining when it’s an effective means.
Albert Essandoh wrote:
Participatory management seeks to empower employees in participating in the decision making process. Employees are allowed to present their opinions but the final decisions are made by management. This phenomenon is rare because it require an organizational culture to support this style.
Culture of learning. Learning requires an environment of trust, sharing behavior, tolerance to failure, and open-mindedness. Organizations interested in learning through this participatory approach need to foster openness or open-mindedness. Leadership need to be open to accept ideas from others.
Trust is needed to make employees feel secure when the share they unpopular opinions. Trust is fostered by demonstrating behavior that is consistent with what you espouse. Organizations that truly desire to learn make an effort to bridge the gap between what the espouse and practice in support of learning. Simply put, walking your talk. Finally, learning through participatory management requires a behavior change towards a sharing behavior. Sharing behavior requires willingness to build relationships with team members or other organizational members. It is a behavior that comes out of employee willingness. Sharing behavior can be encouraged by example and training of the needed skills. Organizations can succeed in fostering participatory approach when the understand the value of knowledge, especially tacit knowledge, that resides in their employees. A change in perception, will encourage them to create the right environment to support this attitude.
In conclusion, bosses and other employees may fear because the organizational culture does not reassure them of their insecurities. Managers fear employees may expose their mistakes or have a better idea to doing certain things. However, in a knowledge sharing culture, these fears are addressed. The culture does not motivate them towards this behavior change. The culture has not made clear the vision of this approach and how it will benefit all and sundry. The culture is assuming that people will get onboard because it has simply been announced. Change comes with committed hard work over time.
Theo Baken wrote:
A few more possible answers:
– Daily business in Public Organizations and Private Enterprises is not ‘deadline driven’ as in a project environment
– Most staff members are just being paid to do their job. Only few of them (the managers) are expected to come up with innovative ideas to ‘improve, strengthen, expand business or to solve problems and crisis situations’.
– I can imagine more ‘facilitation’ and ‘participatory management’ occurred in the past year due to the ‘debt crisis’ to find ways to overcome this. Even governments at the highest levels participated and intervened.
– Nevertheless, this participation and intervention took place on an ad-hoc basis, and not as a ‘policy’, and carried out by trial and error rather than a sound ‘problem analysis’, if you ask me …
In other words, there is still a world to conquer for us.
Alicia S. Chatman SPHR wrote:
As someone who utilizes this form of management style and believe in it, my experience has been that those below me in the organizational structure thrive in that style, peers often appreciate, it but those higher in the structure find it a weakness. Often they feel you should make a decision and delegate it. That’s a shame because I learned my best with managers that allowed me to stretch and make mistakes in a safe environment and I really want to provide that benefit to others.
I hope your workshops encourage more managers and leaders to utilize this style.
Rod H wrote:
Erik, you have posed a very good question…one that I have wrestled with tremendously in the past two years. Your question…”Why is ‘facilitation’ and ‘participatory management’ rare in public bodies and private companies?” Your answer of “Do ‘bosses’ fear to be challenged?” is true and I would like to expand on why I agree.
Not only are bosses fearful of being challenged but they are incredibly envious when managers (under them) become risk takers using participatory management styles and are wildly successful..
These managers are risk takers because “facilitation and participatory management” can illusively give the “appearance” that the manager is NOT in control. An unscrupulous boss can manipulate his successful underling to promote whatever image he likes to his own boss (even to the extreme of assigning credit somewhere else and fixing whatever concocted blame upon the successful underling). Sad truth is this happened to me. Huge lesson for me but now I understand that a company culture and its leadership must recognize and support this style of leadership. If not, the company itself will benefit wildly, but the participating manager will become disillusioned, penalized, and eventually exited by choice or force. Here is a Harvard Business School Publishing website that has been therapeutic to me throughout my experience.. http://discussionleader.hbsp.com/corkindale/2008/02/how_to_deal_with_corporate_sca.html
Thanks for posing the question.
Mark Sheppard wrote:
Interesting question Erik and one which has been highly topical and relevant to my working career. My experience of managing teams within a services/recruitment environment has always involved participatory management, I even take the oft dreaded risk of including staff in this process with an understanding that the process is designed to allow a form of democracy at line management level – but with it comes the communication there is a responsibility of performance against clear objectives. I have successfully reduced retention, increased motivation and productivity in measurable ways by employing this style of management as quite simply I believe key motivators for staff are largely based in the level of inclusion and realistic ownership an individual can exercise in their role. I, like Rod have suffered politically at times due to this and have been stonewalled in many situations by insecure managers up the line.
What I’ve learnt is regardless of organisational perception is that taking risks in the delivery of work is still paramount to your success, and with the right framework, diplomatic communication and exemplifying your objectives to others within your own role will safeguard (as much as possible) the integrity of participatory management. I believe that this is the only effective way to engage people, prescriptive, hierarchical management will not survive generationally in my opinion.
Barend Scholtus wrote:
There is no reason bosses should fear to be challenged as long as their goals make sense [for the group, for the customer etc]. The challenge is the group’s challenge, not the boss’.
Matthew Clulow wrote:
How a person leads has a lot to do with their MBTI type, their personal drivers, who they report to, level of maturity, and personal value systems. This is also true of how you follow. The political system will set parameters around these elements, and this will determine your fit, within the larger mix. Unions will also have a great deal of impact behaviors and thinking. When a manager has to consider how the union, the boss, the government and the public and the employee will respond to every decision made, a bureaucracy is likely to emerge.
I’ve worked in big corporate bureaucratic systems and did well. I’ve also worked in a small companies where the CEO would deliberately cut down the ivory towers that kept popping up so he could get things done faster; he traded error and structure for speed; turnover was high. In the former I wanted more freedom, in the later I was given all kinds of freedom but that came with the stress and accountability of getting results; which is why some prefer to be lead.
Now I work for me and I have all the freedom I choose right? …NOT! Now every client is my boss and I have to adapt to each one, or I won’t be having diner next week.
My point is, there are different systems and they emerge for different, and often complex reasons. Sometimes it how you navigate and not so much what the system is. See following for case history that reelects this in more detail.
Linda Constant wrote:
There are still many public facilities that are driven by a large bureacracy and as such, “out of the box” thinking is discouraged and “participatory management” remains foreign wording. In owner-operated organizations, if the owner built the company to the successful organization it is, then no doubt it is perceived as their reward for their management and decision making style. So if an autocrat has always been successful, why should they change? I do note however, that there is a younger generation of executives out there that have adopted the participatory management style and have been successful with it. Naturally, they will encourage their managers to follow suit.
Silvia Peterson wrote:
My experience is that the issue is ego and personal preservation! At some point along the leader’s professional journey, the mind switches from what is best for the company, to what must I do to keep my job and my standard of living.
The most admirable leaders know their weaknesses and surround themselves with people who are better than they are! They like to be challenged, and they do not see these as personal affronts. These unfortunately, are in the minority!
Michael Hartwell wrote:
Bosses fear risk. They like challenges as long as they know who to shift blame to if the project craters.
Note: Enron, Mortgage Backed Security over/under betting, Hedge fund ponzi schemes. The list is long and distinguished but you do not see bankers, regulators, financiers, analysts standing up and accepting accountability. It becomes a toss the hot potato, pull the golden parachute ripcord, and see how fast you can get out of town.
Nancy Reece wrote:
I believe it all comes down to knowing themselves. If you don’t know yourself well and have the ability to manage yourself- the first two quadrants of emotional intelligence – then you will never have the authenticity, transparency, and humility needed to actively champion either facilitation or participatory management.