Forms of management

In the past; we have written a number of posts around the forms of management.  It is time to update and summarise them here as we get ready for our new book, Open Work. We see management in four forms: Executive, Value, Personnel, and Functional, and the not-manager role of coach.

Note: Our definition of a manager is one who manages the resources made available to them and the people working with them to achieve outcomes asked of them.

We avoid the word “leaders”. Leadership is an intersecting set with managers. Our definition of a leader is one who influences others in a group setting, usually in a particular direction. Executives should provide leadership, and some managers should too, but non-managers will also lead, and (in a large organisation) most managers are not leaders. Leadership is a behaviour. Management is a role.

“Leader” is also used to refer to the boss, the executive manager. We try not to use it that way.

Personnel management vs value management

First step is to separate personnel (people) management from value (work) management.

Some organisations already use matrix structures, or helix[1], or guilds, to provide personnel management (recruitment, development, pastoral care, performance management, HR administration…) distinct from the product and project work, the delivery of value.

Managing value covers:

  • products and services
  • portfolios, programmes: collective backlogs of work
  • units of work with specified deliverables: projects, initiatives….

Authority is delegated or distributed via value management. It is the authority to do work, not to order people around.

Some argue that personnel management shouldn’t be thought of as management at all. Managers control owned assets. It is the capability that is the resource not the human. We don’t own the resource, only rent the right to use it from the person (despite the behaviour of many managers to the contrary).
So what words to use for people managing? Steward. Foster. Nurture. …? While I love the analogy of a gardener – we use it – I’m a little hesitant about the asymmetric nature of the relationship. A gardener is not a servant. The gardener can pull a plant out and throw it on the compost heap.

For the purposes of this post, we will stick to personnel management.  We want to emphasise that the roles of conventional management should be separated. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t call it something different in the field. “Stewarding Capability”.

Value managers and personnel managers collaborate to manage teams, but the two function are clearly distinct, so that staff work with two different managers for these two different areas of their employment[2]. Nobody should have to do both: their goals sometimes conflict, people are better at one than the other, and they make the job too complex. A person can do managing people, managing value (results), or doing work. Generally, any combinations of those three roles overload one person.

The worst thing you can do to an expert, a master of the value, is make them a manager, of any kind. It requires quite different skills and drags them away from passing on the knowledge and advancing the work. Usually we only do it to them because that’s the only career path we have for them. And they always get sucked back into helping with the work on top of their day job.

In future, the world will increasingly separate value management from personnel management. This isn’t a new idea. It has been around forever in various forms. We have tried these ideas in the past. Rob worked in a matrixed organisation in 1985-7. What’s new is that workers aren’t owned resources. They’re free authorised adult knowledge workers who are invited to accept work according to their team’s capabilities. It makes very good sense and fits exactly with where Open is going. As the expectations of people management increase (jobs customised to the individual, personalised development, welfare pastoral care, psychological safety…) this separation is the future. Value structures may change fluidly all the time, but let’s keep people structures stable so that personnel managers get to know their people.

It is not specialisation; it is recognition that they’re different things with distinct skillsets. An incident manager is not a training manager just because they are both called manager. The kind of person who is really good at getting a programme of work done is often not so good at caring for people.

In fact, the objectives of value and people management can be in conflict. The drive to get work done may not always be in the best interests of the people involved. It is not fair to make one individual manage this conflict. “Skills not roles” means that perhaps these capabilities can sometimes be combined in one person,  when a management team self-organises the work amongst themselves. Just as often, a manager will be happy to be able to focus on one and not have to do the others that are not a personal strength.

The group a personnel manager cares for is not the same set of people as the group a value manager organises. People management and value management would divide the organisation up differently. The value groupings would be more dynamic that the people groupings. In a perfect world, people would choose what they work on, and choose who looks after them.

Managers are themselves employees doing work, so they too have a value manager and a personnel manager, and they are in teams and guilds. (A common deficiency of management “teams”, e.g. Senior Leadership Team,  is that they aren’t a team).

Other forms of management

To this separation of value and personnel management, we can add executive management and functional management. There is also the coach, which is not strictly a form of management.

A value manager manages lumps of work (a product, process, service, programme, or project) focused on value, deliverables and milestones.

A personnel manager manages groups of people (by skillset, division , location…) focused on wellbeing, development, and performance.

A team coach (or “scrum-master”) helps teams form and improve, focused on output, quality, and improvement.  They serve teams, not individuals.  A master of a craft coaches a chapter/guild performing that craft. So coaches coach primarily about value, about doing work.

A functional manager runs the functions of the organisation: Training, Finance, Facilities, Security, Audit, Information, IT…  This is a variation of value management: the “necessary non-value work” to keep the rest going.

An executive manager manages the organisation: they sit above (or below, supporting) the other three, providing inspiration and vision.

This is not a matrix of hierarchies. The only one of these roles that has anything like people “belonging” to them are the personnel managers who are responsible for them. All roles – executive, value, personnel, functional, coach – are servant managers (p139): gardeners not commanders.

As well as being managed by a value manager and a personnel manager, a person is in a team.  Agile teams are self-organising, they don’t have a manager.

Teams often self-organise around a leader. Other times they just work collectively.

We can stop imposing managers on teams but we still need to manage programmes of work, functions of the organisation, assets etc…

Many teams will have a coach to provide guidance, their “Yoda”. This should not be a management role, or a team leader. That destroys the ability to coach effectively because of the asynchronous power dynamic.

A person may also be in a guild, or chapter, or community of practice, or whatever you choose to call a group with common skills. That group will be coached by a master of the craft.   It should have a chair or organiser, often the master, but it is not an opportunity to impose another manager.


[2] Scrum@Scale has a similar concept, separating the “what” (the work) from the “how” (the ways of working), with different people accountable for guiding each for teams.