Autonomy and Self-Management are two different concepts but they are starting to be used interchangeably. Morning Star Farms is a tomato processing company that utilizes self-management. At Morning Star Farms, there are no managers. Everything is self-directed and self-driven. Autonomy is different. Autonomy means that there is someone who sets strategic direction for the employee, but the employee can decide the direction they go in to get to the end result that is tasked by the manager. Managers can guide, and provide feedback, but they will not watch over the employees shoulder every step of the way. In the self-management example, the employee or independent worker controls everything. They have accountability to themselves. Self-management is exactly what it sounds like. An individual can choose everything in regards to their work, such as hours worked, projects and commitments. In autonomy, there is a set manager who provides strategic directions, feedback, and administrative tasks. Autonomy also allows freedom to work as one sees fit, but there is still accountabilities and structures that the employee has to work within.
Many organizations are now practicing autonomy, but not self-management. Employees at companies such as Whirlpool, Cisco, Facebook and Google, are given the freedom to work how they want to work, when, and where. But, they are not given the freedom to set the strategic direction. Organizations where employees have complete control are increasing. Companies such as Morning Star Farms, Sun Hydraulics, Valve Software, are all allowing self-management. At Valve, for example, employees are responsible for their projects from start to finish. Self-managed organizations have no managers or direct supervisors, individuals are able to operate freely on the same level as managers together. In autonomy, there is structure, but an individual can decide their course to reach their destination. Curious to hear what you think! Leave me a comment below.
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Jacob Morgan is a keynote speaker, best-selling author (his most recent book is “The Future of Work”), and futurist. He explores how the world of work is changing and what employees, managers, and organizations need to do to adapt. You can also subscribe to Jacob’s newsletter to get weekly content on the future of work To work with Jacob or have him speak at your event visit TheFutureOrganization.com
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