…so what happens to managers in a self-organized environment

Instead of being linked together inside a chain of command and control based on “trickle down” levels of disciplinary-backed power and authority, managers, like all other employees, are members of teams that self-organize to achieve objectives and fulfill performance goals of their zones. These zones, however, involve different kinds of functions, namely those described as the network functionsThese functions are inherently strategic in nature.

In today’s centralized organizations, individual leaders fall in over their heads, because they are located in the center, where information is compounded and task demands escalate. The leader, stranded there, with too much responsibility and too few resources, is forced to take up the only strategy available to them: continual compression of complexity by the progressive reduction of rich and context-sensitive information to second and third order abstraction. Eventually, the company begins to live in the world of conceptualized fantasy – the world of theories, models and maps, which would be useful tools if they mapped onto anything that was actually happening in the everyday and ordinary activities of organizational life. At which time, interventions intended to be solutions to complexity, actually increases it, because the management architecture is invariant to the real solutions the organization requires.

In the OPO, managers can address complex issues collaboratively, by moving around the network and participating with the diverse perspectives of different network environments. Furthermore, because the OPO distributes disciplinary power throughout the network through a participatory governance, managers are freed up to have transparent, frank, and at times difficult conversations with others who hold the key information they need. This means that strategic choices are being based on involved participation with what is actually the case, not on conversations limited to official scripts, cover-ups, and irrelevant abstractions.

So what do managers really do in the context of a self-organizing company? They participate in a complex ecology of values-objectives-performances that operate at fractal levels and at different temporal scales. That is to say, as members of self-organizing teams located in network zones, managers, like all other participants, interact with each other in complex responsive ways, by forming role-identities that emerge from the continuous interplay of their intentions, identities and interactions. For more details see this article on how self-organization works.