pablo pernot

Managerial problem and change of posture

So, in all this, what should we be careful about? To people naturally. To the teams? Certainly not! I don’t give a damn about the teams. I am not interested in teams on this subject. Nothing. Do without me if it’s about accompanying the teams. It is not the teams and team members who will block this fictitious organization. So I don’t care about the teams. Teams are full of different ones, some work, others not so well, but it is generally easy to act if you have the levers of the organization, and above all they very often want to do well. To achieve all this, I don’t care about the teams, because the teams will move forward if we let them move forward, and we will know how to act intelligently on those that are blocking.

I told you why I thought they had so many reasons to flee, to oppose, to simulate “transformation”, even movement. Many good reasons. And these people who oppose each other, who brake, we find them partly in the teams, but in the teams they have a very limited power of nuisance. Managers have a disruptive power. Everyone will help to make progress in this direction, but only managers can really block, flee, evade, avoid.

The implementation of the organization depends on the actions and will of managers. From all managers, from middle management, from small chefs, to top management, to big chefs (beware of words, there are small chefs who are big, and big chefs who are small). The higher they are in the food chain, the more levers or nuisance they have, and the greater their impact and importance. If what you call “digital transformation” fails, I can assure you that the responsibility lies with top management, with the leaders. He did not give enough meaning, did not support enough, did not communicate enough, was not present enough on the ground, perhaps did not have the courage to fire the whole middle management, the little chefs who were obstructing, I do not know the reason, but he is the one who has the keys in hand. Maybe he’s the one who didn’t support this middle management. But as I told you, it’s difficult, because there are many understandable obstacles. The only thing I hope by telling you this is that you remind everyone, or that you remind yourself if you are a manager: if the movement of the organization fails, it is never related to teams, but always to management, because almost only management has the power to really harm once the structures reach a certain size.

Once again, everywhere within the company, there are people who run away, simulate, avoid, for the reasons mentioned above. And also everywhere there are people who will help success, who will move forward. But only managers can really block, run away, evade, avoid. Only managers have this power. And the higher they are in the food chain, the more they have it.

If it works, it is probably linked to a set of actors, if it fails it is the leaders. It’s not a formula, it’s my experience. The manager, the leader, at all levels has too much power of nuisance (or leverage) to ignore this fact.

So what should this leader do? There are two main things it must do. He must discover a new role as a supervisor. First let go: on how, on decisions, on action, but make them possible by taking care to nurture a framework that will make them possible. Let’s go back to French: to frame, to give a framework, and to direct: to give a direction, to go in a direction, a meaning.

Then, communicate and embody. Be the first example, expose yourself, be vulnerable.

Being a manager means knowing, as a manager, how to set and maintain the framework that will allow your people to engage (in this movement).

Why? Because in the complex world in which we live, it is the commitment of people that will make the difference.

The commitment of people will increase the organization’s productivity, innovation capacity, intelligence and responsiveness. The same committed person has nothing to do with the one who drags his feet to get to the office in the morning and whose whole strategy for the day will be to pretend intelligently to do without really knowing what to do (and as we often understand her).

So are there ways to engage. Not so directly. But there are ways to create a framework that will allow people who want to get involved to do so. And there is one area where people are particularly engaged because the framework allows them. They try to try again, they communicate with each other, they do everything good you can imagine to try to succeed, they constantly question themselves to improve. This is the field of video games, video game players. So since a lot of money is at stake, we studied these players to understand their commitment. It is simple, it is based on four points.

First, there is no commitment and therefore no performance, if there is no clear objective, and even more so if this objective carries a meaning that goes beyond this person. To save the planet Earth from Zorg’s invasion. We know what we want and why, and the meaning is beyond us (but beware, the grandiose is not obligatory, no tyranny of vision). In any case, it is not a personal objective. Achieve a digital, agile, lean transformation. We don’t understand it. Why? Why? For what purpose? Who are we? Who are we? Who wants to get started? No one. “Succeeding in opening new markets in Africa while communicating our values”, “Facilitating the family life of thousands of households by allowing more transactions…”. Now we can start working together, thinking, trying, bouncing back.

Secondly, there is no commitment if there are no clear rules that allow you to have a sense of control over your work tool. In some video games I can kill werewolves only with silver bullets, and demons with a magic weapon, if and when I want, successfully or not but I control my action, I control my work tool. On the other hand, if, as in this fictional organization, I don’t know exactly if I have the right to touch this part of the product, I don’t know exactly who can decide the options in this area, and if each of my actions I have to ask other groups to intervene, well, I might as well tell myself what to do and I’m disengaged. Hence these multidisciplinary teams, which are so much in demand today, but which are undermining old siloed structures where the expertise of one skill is more important than delivering something, where the hierarchical structure has taken over the creation of value. It is up to managers to let go and let their teams, multidisciplinary, with a clear objective, and the means to act on it with the minimum of dependency, move forward. With autonomy. Clear rules are therefore needed that give enough autonomy and space to multidisciplinary groups.

Thirdly, to keep this commitment we need to feel that we are moving forward, that we have a sense of progress, that is, that we have information about what we produce regularly. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, it doesn’t matter, first and foremost it must be feedback. If they are negative, I suspect that an autonomous multidisciplinary team will be able to react. But if there is never any feedback on what we do, on what we have produced, what is the point of doing? And if the feedback is drowned in a flood of information, or incomprehensible, it’s the same. Normally, we try to ensure that these returns are linked to what we actually produce, and therefore to the meaning, to the objective initially given. Did the test of this new way of doing things work on this new user population yes? no? Why? Why? It is also for this reason that making huge things that only make sense at the very end, in addition to the often impassable complexity issues, demobilizes everyone. No one knows if what he’s making works, is worth it, etc. So we think differently about products. By small sets prioritized by value that we deliver over time and whose impact we measure to validate or invalidate our hypotheses and continue to advance. The pieces we deliver must therefore themselves be meaningful, autonomous, and we return to multidisciplinary teams that are able to deliver finite things, learn as they go, measure their impact, in front of silo organizations that are not able to deliver anything without the other silo, and do not really know where they stand. Oh yes, they are at 46%.

Fourthly, and this one is difficult to grasp, it is the invitation. None of the video game players were forced to play. Ideally, none of the members of this fictitious organization should be forced to come and get involved, work. Not easy. We are confronted with another reality, that of Maslow’s pyramid, we must first have a roof over our heads, eat, in short… have an organization and a salary before we can think about commitment. It is a broad debate. But it is difficult today to invite people to work, at least not easy depending on the context. For example, I invite you to ask people to train their own teams as long as they try to deliver your product as best they can, and I also invite you to observe the results. Or choose their subjects. People who don’t feel like it should be able to leave the ship. Not easy, I told you. But, on the other hand, if you do projects with people who don’t want to do them, don’t be surprised by some results. As far as possible, try not to impose anything, you disengage the actors who are subject to this imposition. It’s easy to say, I know. There are thankless tasks that no one wants to do. Yes, but we do not want to carry out these thankless tasks if it is our only work, if it is imposed, if we are not even given the freedom to choose how to carry it out, if we are not told why it must be carried out, and if we are not given the freedom to change the way our activity works, to improve it, if only to approach it differently. But if we build a team that works in a field, whose meaning we know, whose results we measure regularly, for which we are allowed to think, improve, change the way things work, well these thankless tasks become a part of everyday life that is much easier to accept. And even more so if we were invited to be part of this team.

People who refuse all invitations quickly understand that their place is no longer here. Then it becomes a societal or legal problem: these people should be able to find their happiness elsewhere, which is not necessarily the reality. You can put them aside in other roles and allow them to accept an invitation later (there is a life next to the organization that naturally also has an impact).

Your role as a manager is to set up this framework!

Once this human and personal shift has been made, from “manager chef” to “manager coach”, it is impossible to turn back the clock as the world appears to be of unsuspected human richness at the beginning, adds Sophie Lenoir - Reynaud rightly.

In addition to these four points, there are rules related to our species. We don’t really know how to communicate beyond fifteen metres (I’m talking about a local group dynamic), a team has trouble functioning, building itself beyond seven, eight, people, the same for a constructive meeting. That a department should not exceed our social cognitive capacities which seem to have a barrier around one hundred and fifty/two hundred and twenty relationships. But all this could change.

Your role as a manager is to set up this framework! Yes, it is easier to give tasks from 0.25 days to twenty-eight people, with a Descartes-style cutting. Fortunately for the happiness of our species, it doesn’t work.

So generally speaking, this fictitious organization I’m talking about has no problem with time and money. It has a problem with the impact of its employees who are not empowered enough, who do not have enough autonomy, and it has a problem to maximize value: it is not able to react, to learn from the market. She does not know how to deliver small pieces that she measures regularly.

The whole role of leaders, of managers, is to switch from the role of principal on the how, and the what, to that of supervisor: the one who gardens a space in which his collaborators can be well engaged and advance, and the one who shows a direction, a meaning, and who embodies it: we are that, we want that, so we conduct ourselves in that way. For many managers, leaders, it is a revolution. It also implies a lot of discipline, knowing how to say no and that some people feel reassured.


I like people, so I like managers. I don’t judge people. They’re good. They’re good. I judge the quagmire in which the role of manager is. And the nuisances that this role causes. Remember that it is the system that opposes people.

End of the interlude.

The story is simple, but it is repeated too often.

Pierre is a good organizer, a good leader, a good expert, he leads the group he works with. In a way, he becomes their “manager”, their “leader”. Then the implicit becomes explicit: it officially becomes “manager”. His analytical and organizational skills, his know-how, his involvement, his ability to work make him a good manager, especially since he is very friendly and human. In the middle of his team, he excels. Success was achieved and Pierre moved up the ladder. Until he became head of the department, of the organization. And that’s failure, incomprehensible. However, Pierre has not changed.

Pierre has just had the main Peters syndrome of management.

Pierre is still this friendly and human man, full of qualities. But he has become his worst enemy.

At the head of the department, there are too many decisions to make his analytical skills sufficient. However, Pierre has always succeeded with his organizational skills in organizing this. He will not let go, he will always want to decide everything, or at least too much. Too many decisions, its failure is accentuated by the isolation linked to the position. His know-how becomes a burden, because he feels capable of better understanding, of better knowing, he thinks he has a duty to absorb the subject, to get involved, and no one dares to send him to the dogs. He knows how to organize. But even then, he wants to organize everything, isn’t that what we’ve been asking him all along?

It’s a difficult time. Either Pierre shouldn’t take this job. Either he will have to understand that this requires a posture that balances itself very differently. To no longer do, no longer control, no longer delegate, no longer decide (on a day-to-day basis), but to give direction, inspire, recall the framework, and communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate, share, share, communicate, share, share, inspire, incarnate, communicate, share, inspire, frame, delegate. It has nothing to do with what we’ve been asking him to do since the beginning of his journey.

Managers are not sufficiently aware of this break-up.

I see a lot of wonderful people not getting away with it.

And then Pierre makes more money since he became manager, chief. And he invested time. And as he has embarked on this career path, he sees the next steps, even if he doesn’t like the path seems to be set. Might as well keep going, it’s a misguided mind that’s hard to fight.

One more time.

This fictional organization wants to go faster and cheaper. She always talks about the way. She always gets the wrong target. If it is a “digital or agile transformation”, we understand that it would like to go faster for less. We don’t go any faster and cheaper. We get better and we hire people. To do this, we must know who we are, what we want, what we believe in, and conform our actions and our environment to it. First of all, make all the management, all the leaders, understand that this is a big change on their part. And then, implement these heterogeneous teams, with autonomy and regular feedback on what makes sense, able to regularly deliver valuable elements and improve. All this only becomes possible if the management, the leaders, understand that they have switched to another role: to shape, clarify a beautiful framework, which allows the teams to evolve. And to incarnate, to communicate this meaning, this identity.

And again, the higher up in management, the more important it is, the more responsible you are. You will laugh in my face and tell me that the great manitou of a gigantic organization cannot communicate or embody in the eyes of all his collaborators. On the one hand, the means of communication seem to me to allow it today. On the other hand, if he can’t show that he gives enough autonomy to the “local leader” so that he can make the right decisions, create the right framework for these teams, has enough autonomy himself? “No, we can’t because the big man doesn’t want to” it’s audible if the big man has come to explain it in one way or another, that he has explained the meaning of this refusal, that this explanation is in accordance with the identity of the organization. Otherwise hello disengagement.

It’s tiring to embody, to communicate. Especially if, like Pierre, we have lost meaning as our careers have evolved. And then if you’ve gone up in rank, it’s probably because you’ve already given, you’d like to take it up a little bit.

The manager is no longer at the centre, he is at the border: he is the manager’s guardian.

I don’t care if your equations are right, management is a soft science. Being a manager means embodying the identity and meaning of your organization. We can decide that the identity of the organization will change, but here too we will have to communicate and explain. Being a manager is tiring, that’s why you get paid more.

Earlier I was talking about firing people, which is an important act, not a simple one, and which does the organization good if it is done right, and well done. What I observed in one or two places was that a quarter of the middle management was getting used to this new way of doing things very well, that another quarter of the management was becoming coaches: getting used to it even better? Another quarter left, because it was not found either in the new way of doing things or in the direction;, the identity, which were clarified, finally I observed the last quarter of the management that was being expelled, because it was considered toxic.

Thanks Deepl for the translation from french.

organisation management manager posture