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Socialistic Management


Tim Bryce

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"Manage from the bottom up; not just from the top down; this creates personal commitment and accountability."
- Bryce's Law

There's a new management philosophy underfoot in this country, spurred on by young I.T. people who resist any form of structure and discipline. Basically, organization charts and job descriptions are being thrown out the door and companies are beginning to experiment with what is being called "flexible management." The concept here is to transfer certain responsibilities which have traditionally been implemented by management and allow the workers to determine such things as corporate priorities, and what projects they want to work on. This appears to be a trend resulting from the Information Technology sector as opposed to other types of companies and, if successful, I'm sure you'll be hearing more about it in the years ahead. Frankly, I'm not going to hold my breath.

This philosophy, which I refer to as "Socialistic Management," represents worker empowerment taken to the sublime and a revolt to concepts such as micromanagement where the worker's voice is neither solicited or heard. Actually it is very much akin to the "Project Team" concept of yesteryear which promotes flatter organizations where workers work on a variety of assignments with different people. The big difference though is that the workers are dictating corporate policy and direction, something unheard of in most companies today.

The cause for "Socialistic Management" is rather obvious as people have grown weary of the autocratic/beancounting approach to management over the last twenty years. In particular, young people want more freedom to express their creativity, particularly in I.T. It shouldn't come as a surprise, therefore, that this is closely related to Agile Methodologies in I.T. which is a maverick approach for building programs based on a similar philosophy to project governance.

From the worker's point of view, "Socialistic Management" represents freedom and a sense of ownership in the company. From management's perspective, it represents less control over corporate direction and execution of project assignments. "Socialistic Management" also seems to promote teamwork but de-emphasizes leadership (since it is the workers who collectively dictate direction). Consequently, this means project assignments are smaller which can be implemented more quickly. What seems to be missing though is an overall architect to assure plans fit together, otherwise everything will be disjointed. Historically, management fulfilled this role, but not so under "Socialistic Management." I consider this omission of corporate leadership as the Achilles Heel to this approach. It is fine for small things, but it has yet to be proven effective for anything of substance.

The theory behind "Socialistic Management" is that superior results will be realized by relinquishing control to the workers. Personally, I believe workers should be empowered to perform their work (a bottom-up philosophy) but overall corporate direction and planning should remain in the hands of those who have a global view of what is going on, namely management. Without such a blueprint in place, consistency will suffer, and workers may tackle the wrong assignments regardless of how popular they may seem.

So, should companies give "Power to the people"? Some, but most definitely not all. I tend to see "Socialistic Management" as a knee-jerk reaction to the stranglehold workers felt from micromanagement. Frankly, I see the two, "Socialistic Management" and micromanagement, as two extremes on opposite ends of the spectrum, neither of which I personally recommend to anyone.

Regardless whether you refer to is as "Socialistic" or "flexible," this management philosophy should not be implemented simply because it is hip or cool and appeals to our youth. Instead, it should only be used if it has been proven to work. So far the jury is still out.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Keep the faith.

About the Author

Tim Bryce is a writer and management consultant with M. Bryce & Associates of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field. He is available for lecturing, training and consulting on an international basis. He can be reached at
Comments and questions are welcome.

Copyright 2008 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-07-03 09:08:35 in Employee Articles

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