The Structures of Management

Many managers focus on managing people – the way they work, their behaviors, even their attitudes. A new approach to management is being used more often now: managing the agreements that people make, instead of the people themselves.

When people make an agreement for what results they will produce, and when those results will be delivered, they have a new relationship to their work. Managers who help their team members to promise results, such as a scheduled delivery of specific products or services or communications, are giving their people more power and ability to be effective. The “people issues” don’t come first anymore – the agreements move to the foreground.

Here are some thoughts to help shift gears from People-Management to managing agreements.

Structure for Management #1:  The HierarchyBig Cheese HiearchyWe are all familiar with the organizational hierarchy – it is the most recognized organizational structure. But when those “lines of reporting authority” are the primary communication links, we tend to see the job of management as managing the Boxes. That means managing people and tasks, including people’s work habits, behaviors, and sometimes attitudes too. Diving deep into those Boxes is usually called “micro-managing”.

Structure for Management #2.  The Performance Network

But the way an organization actually functions is structured more like a network – specifically, a performance network. The people inside the Boxes receive products, services, and/or communications – also known as “inputs” – from one another and from outside groups, which they turn them into different products, services, and/or communications – also known as “outputs” – which they send to others inside and outside of their own group.

This network of productive relationships, where inputs and outputs – sometimes called “deliverables” – are the moving parts between Senders and Receivers. Managers in this network focus on creating and managing agreements within their team as well as with other groups. They support team members in being effective Senders and Receivers who manage productive relationships, not people. In this model, an organization’s performance network looks something like this: Big Cheese HotwireThe Arrows in that diagram are not “lines of authority”. They represent agreements – created in a dialogue between Senders and Receivers – for the deliverables that will move between them.  These agreements define the “What, When, and Why” of each product, service, and communication that will go between each Sender and Receiver.


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