“Honey, we need to confirm for Val Cenis,” my girlfriend prompts late on Saturday morning.
She’s texting her friend about the arrangements for our forthcoming ski trip.
Over the course of the next hour, the plan starts coming together.
Her friend Hannah has a relationship with the owners of the chalet that we’ll be staying in, so she’s been driving it so far. However, my girlfriend is challenging her proposed transport arrangements.
She works out that by flying to Turin, which is slightly further out, and hiring a car, we can save over £100 versus Hannah’s plan, even after accounting for the cheap transfer that comes with Hannah’s proposal.
I then step in to offer advise on the best car and insist that I’ll be doing the driving!
My point is this, six of us, with differing budget expectations came together to organise a week’s trip to another country very simply and it all felt natural. At no point did Hannah appoint herself ‘Project Manager’. Neither did my girlfriend declare that she would be relinquishing the ‘Logistics Lead’ accountability from Hannah. I didn’t feel the need to insist that we have an org chart with me recognised as ‘Lead Automotive Advisor’.
It reminded me of a quote from a former therapist: ‘what’s normal isn’t necessarily natural’.
I believe that so much of what has become normal in modern management practice is a long way from what is natural in terms of how human teams organise themselves.
How often do we find ourselves doing things that feel unnecessary, artificial, or overblown? Are much of Lean management, Agile, Management 3.0 and other methods and techniques simply a means to get approval for working in a more natural way? Are we consultants just packaging and peddling ‘How we all operate when we have permission to behave naturally’?
It begs the question, ‘how did we get to this position in the first place?’ Why is does much of our normal operating practice feel so unnatural, laden with artifice? Perhaps a legacy of an industrial age that benefitted from seeing humans as machines and not as expressions of nature.
Who knows? But perhaps one route to more effective management in the Knowledge Age is to allow more of our organising processes to emerge naturally without trying too hard to work how do it, or how it should be done. If you like, trusting Nature’s Path.
Sounds woolly? Messy? Maybe, but also maybe more human.