When trying to create an ecosystem for learning, the bottleneck that keeps coming up is the role of the manager. If the manager doesn’t think that learning will solve their problem of how to deliver on commitments, then the learning will not happen. The learner relies on their manager to be committed to their development. Most managers agree with this in theory but there is always a conflict of interest between developing people and delivering immediate results. The problem is exasperated by re-orgs. Changes in managers mean that a person’s development has to be constantly rebooted. Re-orgs are necessary because the business needs to change but the uncertainty disrupts performance.
This blog usually doesn’t go into organizational design but I came up with a radical idea that might solve both problems: managers have trouble reconciling people development and execution, meanwhile re-orgs disrupt the development of people and performance.
No more re-orgs.
The only way you can stop re-orgs is to stop having organizations. Imagine a 100% flat organization. No one belongs to any formal organization. No group has a formal manager. How would work get done? Ad Hoc teams would be formed and staffed as needed to solve specific problems and then would be disbanded on completion of the deliverables. There would be a Team Lead who would ONLY be responsible for deliverables. How would performance be managed and development be guided? Mentors would be assigned to each employee. Mentorship is often informal but this would be a formal role that would be part of the mentor’s job description. The employee is answerable to the team lead for delivering results and they are responsible to the Manager for performance and self development.
This separates people management from results management and it removes the disruption and lack of clarity around reorganizing formal hierarchies. This would free learning from the tyranny of deadlines and it would make learning a priority of the mentor.