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Home arrow Management arrow Performance Management for Agile Organizations: Overthrowing The Eight Management Myths That Hold Businesses Back

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Autonomy

Autonomy means being the master of our own destiny. Human beings in most cases have an instinctive need to make their own decisions, choose their priorities, do things in their own way, and develop their own approaches. The way work is organized, however, flies in the face of this natural human inclination. Performance management practices are mostly about directing, controlling, monitoring, evaluating, and planning the work employees do.

People want to be led, but they don’t want to be controlled. Self-direction means having choices, options, and a certain amount of freedom to decide on courses-of-action. Without doubt, there’s considerably more latitude than is currently the norm to give employees greater autonomy to decide what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how it can be done.

More specifically, the intrinsic driver for autonomy can be expressed in four ways in the workplace. Dan Pink refers to this as the four T’s around autonomy: There is the task, time, technique, and team.13 The “task” refers to the freedom to decide the priorities of one’s work. “Time” is the decision on how much time to take to complete a task; in other words, setting deadlines. The “technique” means the freedom to decide how a task ought to be done. And “team” is deciding who to work with to complete the task or activity. It’s a simple, comprehensive model that serves as a useful framework for expressing autonomy in the workplace.

Here’s how it can be applied. You’ll recall in the previous chapter, I recommended that every employee be given the opportunity to serve in a cross-functional project team. That project team would work on a strategic challenge or opportunity facing the organization. Why not allow the employee a percentage of their employment time to work in these teams and on projects? Set some ground rules for project-based work. Some of these ground rules might include:

  • • A timeframe for producing something useful or tangible.
  • • Access to a designated executive manager as a mentor.
  • • Freedom to decide what project the team member would like to work

on and how they go about it.

• Some freedom to meet off-site and virtually.

I’ve worked with many such teams and I am always pleasantly surprised by what they come up with, and the collective energy in the project work. Autonomy to work on the business rather than in the business satisfies this need for self-direction, and ultimately supports the business too. Apart from a few common sense rules, the project teams should have complete autonomy as to how they arrive at their solution.

This means the project team is free to choose how they go about their work (task); free on what they spend their time on to get the project done (time); choose how they accomplish their work (technique); and choose who they involve in the project beyond their project team members (team).

 
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