The key to advancing work is the manager. We must open up management to be invitational, inclusive, serving, and transparent. Better ways of managing enable better ways of working.

We believe the concept of “Open” is so important that we now track it on its own page.

Here is how this page fits with other pages, with links to them:

Better ways of thinking are Open Better ways of working mean Open Work Better ways of managing are Open Management They need Open Governance

Open Management is a book about Open Work and how we manage it to allow work to be better.  The book is by Rob England and Dr Cherry Vu – together we are Teal Unicorn.

The conventional model of management has been the same for a century (since Henri Fayol): Forecasting and planning, Organising, Staffing and commanding, Directing  and coordinating, and Controlling, i.e classic 20th Century Management, a.k.a. “Command-and-Control”.

We define Open Management as eight primary activities:

  • Attracting talent
  • Nurturing teams and people
  • Liberating work and workers
  • Motivating everyone
  • Exploring systems and situations
  • Navigating towards an outcome
  • Observing the work system
  • Representing their people

(We don’t claim this is definitive – it is still a work in progress. Feedback is welcomed.)

To get to these new ways, we have been given three insights to help.
This is our reasoning we use, with some background first:

Target state

There isn’t one. Too many frameworks and methodologies and bodies of knowledge want to tell you what the ideal state looks like. Having some aspirations – some navigational stars – is useful and gives us a direction, but there is no state that we seriously expect to arrive at. Better Ways of Managing is a transformational approach, so it is a means of improving work. As such it is a journey which is never ending. As fast as we improve towards some aspirational state, we will never reach it because the world changes and that aspirational goal moves. The Toyota Improvement Kata has always recognise this by setting short term goals that we iterate towards, but each time we reach that short term goal we revalidate the long term vision because it is likely to have moved in the interim. If expensive kids in suits claim they can tell you what your operating model will look like in 2 years time you should show them the door. Nobody can know that. We are dealing with complex systems and in a complex system we can never know what the future state will be at any point in time nor do we expect that state to ever be a static one. The concept that our operational state is ever a stable one with brief interim periods of change is outdated and outmoded. We must understand that change is the permanent state and that future conditions are arrived at by exploration, experiment, and iteration.

The Teal Unicorn solution

We haven’t got one. Again, if some consulting firm claims that they have a solution that fits everyone you should show them the door. Exactly what approach will change the behaviour of a group of hundreds or thousands of people can only be discovered by experiment. Every organisation uses different methods to follow a different journey. The only things that are common across organisations pursuing better ways of working and managing are the principles and general theoretical models which we apply along the way.


Managers must get their heads around ten major principles (and more principles associated with them):
• More important to improve work than to do work
• Work must be sustainable
• Do less to do more
• It’s a complex system
• Navigate uncertainty and ambiguity
• Trust people
• Success is achieved through failure
• Product not project
• Shift quality left,  bake it in
• Get out of the way of the flow of value


These principles lead us to new models of managing:
• Kaizen
• Networked
• Servant leader manager
• Agile management
• Transformational leadership

• Invitational leadership

• Open leadership
Conscious leadership
Self managing

(Send us more examples please)


In order to get there we manage with new methods:
• Lean
• Theory of Constraints
• Scrum
• Kanban
• SAFe (the trainer wheels of legacy orgs), Disciplined Agile, LeSS, Scrum of Scrums…
• DevOps

How to get to better ways of managing

The key to success in getting a legacy organisation to better ways of working, to openness and agility, is understanding how to create the advancement and, in particular, understanding that the focus of the advancement has to be the management layer, rather than the work. This is the first insight we have been given, and it is the nub of our Open Management approach: the realisation that the most important aspect of better ways of working is not the target state or some template solution or even distilling out a set of principles; it’s the management.

The high-level executives are more likely to be risk takers and big thinkers and will embrace better ways of working more quickly than the middle management will. Likewise, the practitioners at the worker level are generally keen to do something better once you work them through their initial resistance to being changed. But that middle layer, that permafrost, is usually the slowest to move in any organisation. So while other bodies of knowledge emphasise executive support and better ways of working for the teams, we think that those two aspects actually sandwich the most important and most neglected area: moving the middle management.

The second insight that we have learnt is that you can’t change individual people, whether they be executive, management, or team practitioners. People exist within a system so we must change the system rather than the people or some amorphous concept of “culture”.

And the third insight that experience and theory has taught us is that you can’t change a system of humans directly, it’s too complex. You must change the externalities to influence the system to change. Change the governance, policy, KPIs, products, services, and people development. In other words, change how we manage the system. The culture and work will then change.

Trying to change culture and work directly is futile. It succeeds locally at a team level up to a point, if you can create enough white-space for change to survive. But beyond that point, change must be systemic. And fairly soon it must be systemic at an enterprise level. Change the governing to change the managing to change the conditions to change the system to change the work to change the behaviours to change the culture. It’s a causal chain, and we think management is the primary constraint.

From our three insights into the better ways of managing, we created Teal Unicorn’s approach to driving advancement to better ways of working: the Unicorn Management Model, and our own training.