Are you self-organizing?


Are you self-organizing?

Do you know how self-organizing you are? I will share a quick technique for measuring yourself.


My main inspiration for the decentralizing of authority comes from a book Turn the Ship Around written by L. David Marquet. The story is about how he as a captain of a nuclear submarine was able to turn one of the most poorly performing submarines into one of the top performers by decentralizing leadership. If the subject is of your interest, I can recommend the read. I wrote earlier a blog on the importance of decentralizing authority and also our HR Director Kristiina wrote a post that features Marquet’s ideas.


An aspect Marguet put emphasis on, is how strong the link there is between self-organizing and how we communicate. He has also talked about the ladder of self-engagement. The ladder is about how the lingo gives away your level of self-organizing and it serves as an excellent acid test on how self-organized you and your organization are. Listen to the communication in everyday situations, do your sentences start with:


6. I’ve done…

5. I intend to…

4. I request…

3. I recommend…

2. I think…

1. Tell me what to do


Did you recognize yourself in different situations? I think you did. So the next question would be how to move your organization up on the ladder? The first step is to be able to let go of control. Is that not obvious? Yes, but have you actually done it, since letting go can be hard. Your logic tells you that this is the right thing to do, but when you lose your focus – you find yourself micromanaging new situations. There is obviously no self-organizing organization without individuals that are allowed to organize themselves.


There is, however, more to it than just letting go. When people are interviewed regarding what are the biggest obstacle of letting go of authority the most common fears usually have to do with either competence or organizational clarity. Two key ingredients supporting the decentralization of decision making. This means that you need to ensure that everyone should know where you are heading as an organization. Both formal and informal communication need to be trimmed, and it should be consistent and continuous. Also, incorporate learning everywhere. Resist the urge to provide ready-made solutions. Let people make mistakes in a safe environment and let them learn from the experience. Let people focus on achieving excellence instead of just avoiding errors.


Fostering children is the analogy for me. You cannot – and you should not – make decisions on behalf of your children, even when there are those moments when you would like to grab the steering wheel in the middle of a learning process. Standing on the sidelines is scary at first. However, if you have built the foundations properly, you should not have to worry. The best part, with hindsight, is that the outcome differs from if you would have micromanaged it all. Moreover, it is not only different, but it is also many times better and more innovative.


If you do not want your employees or your children to act like robots, then stop treating them as such. Do you not trust them to make the right decisions? Then first you need to take a look in the mirror on how you set up your communication, processes, and culture. Do they support competence building, organizational clarity and taking action? If not, you know where to start your transformation. By the end of the day, what can you lose by letting go?

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Rickard Kallis

Busines Lead - Customer Experience