An intelligent person needs no management
Marko Sverdlik, leader and partner at Proekspert
I have a dream. A dream about the Estonian state as a flagship of state-of-the-art leadership and operations. A state where every citizen feels involved and significant. Where they feel a part of something bigger and more important in which they have their own role. A role that answers their calling. A role in which they are the best. In which they are trusted and honoured. In which they create useful things that contribute to progress in society.
Such a dream may seem quite distant and unattainable. It is indeed distant, but not unattainable. We needn’t change the whole system at once to make a considerable developmental leap. We can start from something “easier” that we all come into contact with in our daily lives: leadership. The leadership of people. I believe that no one who is intelligent needs anyone else in order to manage themselves. If they do, the problem lies somewhere else. It’s the task of leaders to identify and, if possible, remove the obstacles that prevent the person from reaching their full potential.
You may say that we already have a state-of-the-art IT state, a pioneer in e-Governance. Yes, that is true from the viewpoint of digital development. However, IT is not a goal; it’s a means of reaching a goal or solving a problem or challenge. An IT state cannot be a goal, only a solution. A solution to what? What goal do we want to achieve or what challenge or problem do we want to overcome through the IT state? The answer is laconic – to remove everything from a citizen’s path that is redundant and prevents them from dedicating themselves to that which is important, from being useful and creating value.
Unfortunately, the situation is not so good when it comes to focusing on citizens. The latest developments actually point to the opposite trend. The distance between the citizen and the state is growing. The citizen has an increasing number of useless obligations and duties while the value being created is shrinking. The state is being developed and built in the state’s own interests, which are often short-term and materialistic. Actions and speeches convey a clear message of distrust, control and restriction. Let alone blame and defamation. People are seen as lines in the budget, assets on a balance sheet and nameless cogwheels in the state’s aimless machinery. Compared to organisations that employ state-of-the-art leadership and operations in the world, we are clearly moving backwards.
What are state-of-the-art organisations doing differently? They shape and build organisations with a human focus, based on human needs – in every aspect – with respect to employees, clients, and the end users of their services and products. People with their wishes and needs come before goals, processes and money. Organisations are built on people’s trust and freedom of action, as well as initiative and eagerness. People are given a chance to decide and the freedom to manage their own activities. Dedication, willingness and creativity are received in return. These are the core components for making dreams come true and for making a targeted developmental leap.
The human-centred approach is much talked about, but quite often it means a client-centred approach where the client is king. All of us have heard about shaping the customer experience, or about designing the user experience. Little has been spoken about shaping the employee experience. Even less, or actually none at all, about shaping the citizen experience. The idea that the client is king tends to overshadow the idea that the employee is also human. A human whose welfare, involvement and dedication determine the success and development of the organisation. Companies that can create essential value for the users of their services and products involve and inspire their employees and also be more responsible as members of society are successful in the long run. The same applies to the state. States that have built their operations on the best possible citizen experience by providing useful, demand-driven services to the people who need them, can be successful in the long run. To make this happen, state agencies have to centre their functions around humans – in every aspect.
Luckily, we don’t have to look far to find practitioners of human-centred organisations. Internationally successful Estonian companies often employ highly innovative management styles, and this is no coincidence but clearly a cause and effect relationship. Fortunately, there are also state agencies that are taking steps toward a human focus. My confidence in our potential to be a leader in state-of-the-art leadership and operations is based, among other things, on personal experience in the application of the bossless ideology and a human-centred approach at Proekspert since 2013. We have deserved extensive international recognition as innovators of leadership thought and, even more importantly, we have built a strong and motivated team. Our employee and customer satisfaction have improved considerably. The organisation has become leaner in terms of both management levels and processes. This in turn translates into lower costs. We have become more productive and can be useful to a larger number of people in the same amount of time.
There are many ways to improve the quality of life in Estonia. One of the most tangible is the promotion of a leadership culture and principles through the implementation of a human-centred approach. This applies to the daily affairs of the state, its agencies and also businesses and other organizations. An intelligent person needs no management. Give them a chance to decide and the freedom to manage. In a team of like minds, services and products are designed and developed that are useful and matter to people.
Thinking of joining us? See Proekspert open positions here.