Minimum viable management is not a constant


“Minimum viable management must be a primary aim. In specific aspects of management, such as safety, data safety and regulatory compliance situations in which rigorous processes must be applied, more management is needed. Minimum viable management is not a constant.”

This is the way that 50 theses of management ( defines the minimum viable management. What does this mean in practice and in which way do different situations require different types of management?

Think about a situation in which the team is highly capable. The team has a clear purpose and a clear target and everyone’s roles are clear. If the challenge is manageable, the team needs little guidance in order to succeed. Everyone has their own role and responsibilities and managing the work is effortless.

Little or no management is needed to complete the work and the team can self-organize their work with minimum intervention. These situations occur all the time in places like schools, kindergartens, libraries, shops, universities and construction sites. In most of the minimum viable management situations, the purpose of the team is clear and all parties understand the target in the same way. In these situations, there are little or no acute risks even if the team fails to deliver.

In these situations, the minimum viable management is a limited amount of management. this can be often be reduced to the administrative work of a supervisor, gently steering the team in the right direction if the team loses focus and resolving any rising conflicts that the team is not able to resolve without intervention.

Not all situations, however, are like this and there are many situations in which a lot of management is needed. One example of such a situation is flying an airplane. We take it for granted that every little detail in the airport and airplane has been defined by rigorous processes, from employing competent staff to how the airplane is maintained and flown.

In these demanding environments, issues such as passenger record mistakes or missed maintenance tasks which may be minor anywhere else, may need to be analyzed and fixed promptly. In these environments, there are so many vital things to manage that many of the management tasks have been delegated to the team in the form of specific processes and instructions.

Similar situations, in which more management is needed, are areas such as production in which the company wants to produce standard goods throughout the year without variation regardless of who is on shift. Other management in this category would be any industry responsible for people’s health such as hospitals and industries demanding regulatory compliance or data safety.

The minimum necessary amount of management varies greatly from one situation to another. The key factor in all situations is for managers to adopt the concepts of servant leadership in which their role is to create a great environment for all the team members to succeed.

Regardless of the situation, managers need to ensure that all team members understand the target. Ensuring that the target is understood correctly is so important. Great managers don’t ignore the task, even when the discussion may be uncomfortable, for example, where feedback or guidance for the team members regarding the right direction for their work is necessary.

In their servant leadership mindset, managers have several ways of impacting the environment of the team. These could be bringing in a new team member with specific skills, investing in tools or offering training for people. It is also an ongoing task to ensure that the team keeps on improving their work practices, tools and ensuring that rigorous quality activities or processes are in place if completing the work demands it.

Authors: Kati Lehmuskoski, Tuomo Koskenvaara

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