Time for management has gone, we’re in the age of empowerment

3 min readMay 4, 2021


Management, bosses, hierarchies, bureaucracy, structure, reporting lines, meetings, permissions, idle time, approval, promotions, seniority…

The structure of management has for the majority of organisations been the same since the 1900s. Back then, working involved our hands and we decided we could improve productivity by separating the thinkers from the workers. So that’s what we did. Enter hierarchical structures. This worked at the time.

BUT, humans and technology have evolved, so now, we need to evolve our organisations. And many have. Look at Southwest Airlines, Patagonia and Buutzorg…

So what do we know today:

  • We have access to ample knowledge with the many people in our organisations
  • An effective solution involves multiple ideas which come from a variety of experience and expertise… i.e. teams have greater capability than the individual
  • People are driven not by salary or title, but by meaning and purpose. If you haven’t seen Dan Pink’s clip on autonomy, mastery purpose, hunt it down, the 10 minute investment will change the way you see your people
  • The power to make decisions motivates people
  • Choosing to do something versus being told results in a more effective outcome. People care more when they choose to take ownership themselves. If someone tells you to do something, how motivated are you really?
  • We have this mentality of keeping people busy over focusing on value. Why?
  • The traditional management structure of hierarchy and bureaucracy generates wasted time with middle managers being messengers.
  • A lot of people work to live

We know a lot more but using this as foundation:

How can we evolve our organisational ‘structures' to work effectively in this new age of knowledge and technology? What if we:

  • Teach executives to cede power. Let’s move decision making to the people doing the do. They have the information so it makes sense for them to make the call.
  • Ditch the hierarchy and move from lines to circles. Organisations are living, breathing entities with a heartbeat, let’s acknowledge that and build upon it.
  • Acknowledge change is inevitable. So bring it into our ways of working. Let’s not be surprised or disappointed when things don’t go to plan. This is a reality and we deal with it by responding to change.
  • Break the mentality that busy people get more done. We know this isn’t reality. Busy people don’t have time to think. They are stuck ticking things off a list without time to think about streamlining, building efficiencies or contemplating the next great idea to delight our customers. We have shifted from a time of working with our hands to working with our minds. Sitting at a screen, looking out the window doesn’t mean you’re idle. Thinking is working.
  • Make space for innovation. Innovation is fuelled by ideas. 100 people in an organisation, at it’s extreme has 100 ideas. Surely a few of those are worth experimenting with. Organisations sit on a bank of ideas but we don’t create space to hear them. Make space for the ideas your people have and you could be contributing to the next Tesla or iPhone.
  • Build our organisations on a foundation of trust and infuse autonomy, mastery and purpose into our organisational heartbeat.
  • Focused on our people over the work. I guarantee our people will get the work done. They will not only tick the box on the to do list, they will exceed expectations, streamline, challenge, improve and generate new ideas delivering far more value than we could ever imagine with our current hierarchical structures.
  • Live to work because we have space to do great things and hey, what if… we helped people enjoy their work?

Let’s evolve today’s organisational terminology to empowerment, ideas, autonomy, purpose, meaning, context, experiments, value, priorities, mastery, customer obsession, people obsession.

We’re in a new age, things have changed. If we continue operating with models and mindsets from the 1900s, how can we really expect to push the boundaries to become more competitive, innovative and effective?