Trust doesn’t preclude control…but which control ?


That’s a key point in enterprise 2.0 discussion : build a base called trust, which has effects on transparency, loosen grip and the command and control world that’s ours. Hence the announced end of “command and control”.

Why the end of command and control ? Regarding “command”, can you imagine an organization where nobody commands ? That’s not because we need more place for serendipity that we have to let luck rule our companies. Command must stay, but people may be allowed to also do what’s not asked. Most of all, command can be about goals definition, not about the means you’ll use to reach it.

And what about control ? According to Maddie Grant, companies can’t adapt to the present context because they can’t live without control. I fully agree with that opinion but I’d like to add something.

The paradigm of most managers prevent them from accepting emerging models, although they believe it’s important to reach some goals that can’t be reached without those models.

Control is necessary. But what is control extactly ? Control the result or control the means ? Control if things are done or control the way people do things ?

The first vision is a qualitative and constructive one, and matches gen Y expectations : focus on objectives, be assessed on this only base. If the objective isn’t attained, then we get into a learning / correction / improvement process that can be followed alone (people can learn by themselves from their failures) or with a manager who’ll behave as a coach. If the objective is attained, everything’s right and we may have a new contextualized best pratices to share.

The second vision is about power. I decide what you have to do, the way you do it, and every task you’ll have to do. Your sense of responsability is taken away because everyhting has been thought before. As a consequence, people don’t learn, and, years later, their managers are surprised of their lack of autonomy. But the ability of being autonomous has been slowly sapped by such attitudes. In short, people can’t do anymore what’s everyone primary task : finding solutions to their problem by themselves.

Strangely (?), this approach is also the proof of a lack of trust that, most of times, doesn’t rely on tangible facts, but on a posture that precedes the relationship : before giving someone a mission, it’s already assumed that we would do better. Then the person in charge of the mission follows exactly what he’s been told, looses slowly his hability to “try”, looses self confidence, and, at the end, backs up his manager with the idea that he can’t be trusted. That’s a good example of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Management 2.0 will, obviously, partly rely on “command and control”. Command because objectives have to be defined and someone has to assume decisions. Control because goal’s achievement has to be checked, but rather in a logic of trust which serves learning and capabilities improvement than in a logic of power. It’s key to building a learning organization.