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Sustainable Management

Published: 2020-09-23

Sustainability is more relevant than ever before. But what is Sustainable Management? My take is about maximising the positive effects in the organisation while minimising the managerial interference. Below are my favorite tools and principles to achieve this.

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The Sustainable Management Manifesto

Empower the people. Build your organization around empowered, self-organized teams. Get the right people on the bus, and try to create the best possible conditions for them to thrive. Delegate responsibilities, rather than tasks. Have faith in your people!

Manage the system. Not the people. Focus on the whole and create a nourishing habitat for your team. You probably need to give the system a nudge here and there, but most of the time just let go of the control and let things enfold. More often than not, great results will emerge.

Be physically present. Sit close to your team. Show that you care about the people and their day to day endeavors. You will learn so much about the dynamics of the organization by just absorbing the surrounding processes by osmosis. Simply being there will eliminate the need of status meetings and reports. Management by sitting around rocks.

Be mentally present. Being there physically is not enough. You must be able to fully focus on the present and what happens around you. While still keeping an eye on the horizon, though. Work on your listening skills. Meditate. Why not try yoga?

Say no. Focus on what really matters. Adhere to the Pareto 80/20 principle. That means you have to say "no" more often than "yes". Avoid "maybe", "I'll try" or "I'll add it do my todo list". If it isn't a "hell yes", it's a "no".

Undo todo lists. I hate detailed todo lists. They hinder me from focusing on the big goals. Instead, end your day with defining the three most prioritized task for the next day. If you need a todo list to remember these three things, you have more critical issues to deal with than the ones on your todo list…

Good enough. Just enough is often more than enough. You don't need to gold plate every little thing you do. Excel in the art of maximizing the work not done. The 80/20 rule always applies.

Steal stuff. Copy and adapt ideas from others. Use your network. And Google. Being innovative is not the same as inventing everything yourself. Be an eclecticist. (Relax, you don't have to be able to pronounce it to be one.)

Create space. For yourself. For your people. For creativity. For learning. For having fun. For getting sh*t done. For taking a run. For being in the sun. And for making some kickin' rhymes.

Improve everything. Relentlessly. All the time. Experiment and learn. Involve the people around you. Run frequent retrospectives, Lessons Learned, Kaizen meetings - or whatever you want to call it. As Eric Ries put it, "The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else."

Maintainable pace. When the sh*t really hits the fan, people will likely turn to you for direction - regardless of their level of self-organization. Hence, you must be able to perform at peak level at any point in time. Don't burn the candle at both ends, keep a pace that you can manage indefinitely.

Be humble. Realize that you do not have all the answers. Show vulnerability. Always be an apprentice.

Keep it simple. Apply to everything. No further explanation required.

Have fun! Play, experiment, be creative, joke around, laugh. Winning teams have more fun. Teams having more fun, are winners. Work doesn't necessarily have to feel like work.

Final thoughts

To me, management is about optimizing the odds of great things happening, rather than doing loads of random stuff and keeping busy. And if you play it smart, great things will aspire by means of surprisingly small interventions.

If you want to achieve more by doing less, you are welcome to steal the Sustainable Management Manifesto ;-)

PS. My thoughts on sustainable management are heavily influenced by:

Management 3.0 by Jurgen Appelo
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Yes to the Mess by Frank J Barrett

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Posted by: Andreas Rowell

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