by Vasco Duarte
By now you probably know my friend Tuomas Syrjänen and how they dealt with organizational change at his company Futurice. Elected ‘A Great Place to Work 2012’, but as you could read in these blog posts here, here and here, they have worked hard to get where they are now. And in this last blogpost about Futurice, we will get to their secret weapon. Smileys.
Management is **NOT** about managing people!
You see, Tuomas and his colleagues have a unique approach when it comes to managing their people. “A lot of traditional management is about managing stuff. Since we typically assume everything is good, we have the opportunity to listen to people’s human needs and condition.” Whoa. If you like, you can read that sentence again, it sure boggled me 😉 But seriously, I like the way they treat their workers as the real human beings they are. Tuomas says: “We just went from managing things to managing the environment, giving people the opportunity to lead themselves. It is an interesting journey because we don’t have all the answers ourselves.”
A lot of traditional management is about managing stuff. Since we typically assume everything is good, we have the opportunity to listen to people’s human needs and condition.
Smile to break the ice
One of the ways they do that is by organizing ‘Smilies meetings’. These meetings are held around projects, teams or whatever people feel allegiance to. For example, they regularly hold project breakfasts with a smilies conversation. By plotting their own smilies on a board, people can express how they feel and, if they want, share a bit of what’s behind their choice of smiley. These conversations are not about breaking up in tears or holding hands, they are an easy, light hearted way to express how you feel about your work, project or environment in general. You don’t have to explain why, but everybody knows how you feel and often that’s enough.
For Petri, a coach at Futurice, it’s all very logical. “Working is all about humans and if you feel great, your work is great as well. Unfortunately, managers often avoid talking about people and their feelings.”
Although these new ways of working work for Futurice, Tuoma0s doesn’t say he’s right and somewhat more traditional managers (Theory X managers they call them) are wrong. “It’s not ‘them’ against ‘us’. But we want to change the world by creating an organization that helps people to make the best decisions all the time. In order to do that, we need to explain what we do in a language the Theory X manager understands. What we do isn’t ‘fluffy stuff’, but are usable practices”.
Working is all about humans and if you feel great, your work is great as well. Unfortunately, managers often avoid talking about people and their feelings.
It’s better to have questions than answers
I thoroughly enjoyed talking with the guys of Futurice and writing about their story. They are very successful, but at the same time quite modest about it. Tuomas knows very well what it is to be a traditional manager; he used to be one. And he is quite realistic about where he and the company are going. “It’s not a journey with an end. ‘We’ do not have all the answers. Luckily so, because it’s very interesting to keep on improving.” I can’t agree more. It’s better to have questions than answers. What else is there to look for after all?
It’s not a journey with an end. ‘We’ do not have all the answers. Luckily so, because it’s very interesting to keep on improving.
Photo credit: Smiley by katerha @ flickr