torsdag 3 november 2016

ALMA - Sponsorship

We have an intuitive notion about leadership and dominance that affects how organizations traditionally have been governed. While coordination is necessary when many people want to be productive together, relying on our primitive intuitions are in many cases not the most effective way. The issue of governance and management need to be addressed in a more thoughtful manner.

In ALMA we regard governance and management just as a bunch of Capabilities (realized by Processes). Since the Capabilities needed for good governance have a special impact when it comes to the design and the performance of the organization, we consider them with extra care and group them under the overarching theme of sponsorship.

Under the umbrella of sponsorship we group all Capabilities (and Processes) that provides

Direction — Saying that we should meet the needs of people is a no-brainer. Saying what needs to meet is something that requires a thoughtful decision. Pointing out the purpose of the collaboration and in what direction everyone should go is part of the sponsorship.

Prioritization — If you are experiencing conflicting priorities, for instance if you have encountered a bottleneck in the organization's ability to deliver, you need clear direction on how to prioritize. Either directly where you bring up the issue to a board or an individual, or indirectly via rules - general or more specific - that you can rely on.

Approval — If you aren't sure that an agreement is within the line of what the organization needs, or if you feel that an agreement between parties isn't being upheld, you need to escalate this to someone who can take a look at the whole and decide what to do, from a holistic point of view.

Resource allocation — In order to do something you need tools, time, and friends. In an organization, these three have a cost (at least the cost of not being used elsewhere), so there is a need for a mechanism that can make these kind of allocation decisions in a fruitful way.

The responsibility of the Functions that provides sponsorship Capabilities is to guarantee that what they do is in line with the purpose and limits of the whole organization. Functions that provides sponsorship Capabilities should be aware that when they are needed, they are needed quickly because something that no one else can solve is currently blocking the value creation. This is why many lean and agile organizations tries to distribute the sponsorship Capabilities to many Functions by extensive delegation. It is also why many of them also have instituted rules that states that no issue can be lying unsolved more than 24-48 hours before it is escalated to the next higher hierarchical level.

A common way of organizing this in effective operations that handle life-and-death situations (like in the military or at hospitals) is to always have an appointed person in charge of sponsorship decisions at all times, and make sure that this person has the necessary backup when needed.

Remember that no matter if you are a private or public company, or if you are a governmental or non-governmental non-profit, there is always an underlying power structure! Things and time are owned by people, as individuals or in a collaboration, and law-makers have connected certain responsibilities and rights to this ownership. ALMA opens up for delegation, collective decision making, and other forms of distributed responsibility. Note that this is done in order to create effective power structures, not to ignore the issue of power!

A "manager" in a more traditional sense would be a Function consisting of a single individual who are responsible of providing all these sponsorship Capabilities. It is an observation that in a complex environment the burden of all the sponsorship responsibilities is too heavy for a single individual to carry. The processes need expertise knowledge in many areas. By regarding them as Capabilities that can be provided by many Functions, where each Function is made uf of many individuals, ALMA opens up for the possibility to create a more effective leadership that won't burn out people.

There are reasons to abandon the concept of "managers", but management will always be needed!

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