As a manager, I sometimes think it would be better if I didn't exist. Well, speaking only figuratively, of course. I believe that sometimes it would be better if people didn't have a manager to sort things out for them. Having a manager makes people passive and dumb. Or to put it in another way: some managers make people passive and dumb!
Last week I was at the Agile Open Europe conference. The conference followed the Open Space principes: no manager, no schedule, no scope. Only 30 intelligent people, a timebox of two days, three rooms, some sticky notes, and a rubber chicken. It was the most interesting conference I have attended in years.
The Lack of Management Forces People to Think and Act
The principle of self-organization behind the Open Space concept makes people active and smart. There's simply no alternative when there's no manager to turn to.
Help, Manage Us! While I was enjoying myself at this conference, I checked my email and saw that some employees in my organization requested my presence (as their manager) to solve some planning issues. They encountered a problem with some conflicting interests, and wanted my input to solve the issue. My first thought that I would email them back, telling them I was tempted to stay away until they had figured out a solution among themselves. I simply don't want to be the kind of manager that makes decisions where people can also do that together, without me.
Management Make People Passive and Dumb
However, neither did I want to leave them to their own devices, because I also don't want to be perceived as someone who doesn't care about other people's problems. So, I returned from the conference with the most appropriate solution I could imagine: