Why the Climb is more important than the Summit: Jobs and Motivation.

What is the formula for individual performance? The best formula of scientific value I know of is delivered by Daniel Pink:

Performance = f (Mastery * Autonomy * Purpose)

where else…

  • Mastery is the longing for perfection
  • Autonomy is the freedom to do it your way
  • Purpose is the longing for a higher sense of being


Wrong. What are you thinking of when you write a job description for a new position in your company? I bet that the primary factor you are thinking of is A. what this person is supposed to do and derive from that B. what Skills, Qualifications and Experience this person should have.  Where in this process did you ever think of Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose? Never.

But what do you want this person to deliver? Excellence, n’est pas? And all you think about is what the person will be doing and what kind of skill she needs. Ok, you might even think of C. Character traits, as third hiring criteria. But the character is so hard to judge, chances are that you will overweigh Skill and Experience.

The folly that most people in traditional companies are falling for is that they fail to recognize that they are still a child of the industrial revolution. The world is understood as being static. A job is to be done. Look for a person with the optimal fit, find her and assign her to a position. Job Done!

Ugly. Underperforming. Old School. Let me say why:

  1. Jobs are not static. In a modern, digital world with accelerating rate of change, this old way of thinking kills traditional companies. The Jobs to be done will change and change again over time. I am not advocating having no hiring criteria, quite the opposite. But a static job description as the main hiring criteria, that’s obsolete.
  2. Skill is not static. You may hire people for a skill, but a person won’t perform well if that’s the only thing you expect from that person. As Daniel Pink as shown, people aim for mastery, if given a chance. To not provide the opportunity to people to strive for mastery, means that performance will stall and decline over time

There is a better way. So let’s continue with the 6th part of the series that compares modern management systems and classical, hierarchical management.

Stop defining Jobs – provide Opportunity for Growth instead

Job Descriptions: No, thank you

Advanced Management Systems have done away with job descriptions. There are simply no Job Descriptions whatsoever in Liberated Companies and in Holacracy.  Let the people themselves figure out what is best for the company at any point of time. As long as the social collective is functional and a shared purpose aligns peoples actions they will find their place in an organization – again and again. The realignment to changes of the business environment will happen on its own,  based on the social collectives judgment of competence and motivation of a person. No formal job description required.

Management 3.0 straddles the middle position. It propagates keeping job descriptions, but these should be described in broad, general terms. Job titles should be as broad as possible, too, to allow people room to grow and develop.


Roles: Yes, please

That does not mean that all formality is foregone. It still pays to be as clear as possible on what someone is responsible for.

Holacracy takes great care to get people to draft role descriptions to do exactly that. The difference between roles and jobs is that roles are meant to be held only temporarily. They can be assigned and reassigned by Holacracies teams (“circles”) as needed. No HR required, no legal counsel, no organizational chart to be adapted.

Within Liberated Companies, it is still a good idea to clearly communicate responsibility, but there is no formal description how to do that.  Management 3.0 is not prescriptive about the subject of roles, but I extrapolate that roles remain a good way how to define, assign and communicate responsibility.

The guys from Corporate Rebels, a blog preaching the virtues of Liberation, have recently published a post with the headline that says it all: “Delete Titles and Job descriptions. Add: Talents and Mastery“.

Career: Sideways is the new up

What all three modern management system have in common is that people should be provided with opportunities to advance in mastery and pay grade through deep specialization or by moving to other, more or less unrelated jobs in the organization.

Job titles are frowned upon in all these management systems. This requires people to hold an egalitarian attitude.

Again, Management 3.0 holds the middle ground. It frowns upon job titles, but only in organizations accustomed to a high empowerment level. In organizations with a lesser empowerment level, broadly defined job titles are still useful. After all, some people do not only strive for Mastery and Financial Reward, they may strive for prestige and status instead.

What Management 3.0 is saying is that an egalitarian Attidiute must be grown. This is hugely contested by Liberation and Holacracy, which hold that piecemeal, evolutional “egalitarianism” will not work. You have to go all-in, taking a revolutionary leap. For example like Irizar, a Spanish Bus Manufacturer. But more on the subject of adopting one of the advanced Management Systems in the next post.

Motivate! But do it in a sustainable way

But wait a minute. Let’s take as a given that people are the happier, the more they are able to strive for mastery, in their own (autonomous) ways and following their own sense of purpose. But how many people do you know who are actually driven by mastery?

A few, at best, I guess. The thing is: Providing a work environment that fosters Mastery through Autonomy and Purpose is simply not enough. Just offering people the chance to grow does not mean that the offer will be taken up. For people to enter the self-reinforcing feedback loop of Mastery, people need to be motivated to go the first steps on this path.

A traditional way to motivate is to offer money. But financial rewards have been proven to be dangerous, costly and short-term: Every financial target is a golden opportunity to play the system, esp. for all those inventive, sneaky types. Good Goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). Targets are an opportunity to play the system in these dimensions, e.g., for short time profit, by the negligence of quality, for unsavory trade-offs with other targets, by taking advantage of other departments or persons, etc.

Yet traditional companies rely on financial rewards or dole out status perks, like job titles or corner office spaces. In return, employees get a certain amount of job security, a defined place to go and a defined set of tasks to do every day. Deal?

This package is very different for Liberated companies and Holacracy. Here people are expected to turn up to work every day for Self-fulfillment, i.e., aiming to realize one’s deepest desires and capacities.

motsThat seems like a lofty concept. Hey, there is a job to do here, say in accounting for instance. The company couldn’t care less about employees “deepest desires and capacities.” And why should a company care? As long as the job is done everything is in order, isn’t it?

The Fog of Business

The problem with this way of thinking is: What can be measured and what is seen by a manager of an employees work is limited. A Manager sees the performance of his people through his limited perceptional capabilities, creating a “fog of business.”

fog of business.png

  • Observed value-add: What is measured by an organization and what is seen by a manager are two different things. Lots of work or even measurements go unnoticed or are ignored. Lots of observations and measurements consist of a lot of noise. The quality and quantity of work itself is hard to measure, esp. in knowledge-driven work
  • Unknown value-add: There is a lot of good, beneficial work, that escapes the notice of a manager
  • Negative value adds: But so there is a lot of none or negative value-adding work spend for example in local optimization thereby undermining other departments, tuning reports, neglecting customers, etc. That goes unnoticed, too.
  • Potential Value Add: If the energies of a worker can be directed into this field, the company can benefit more. For example spending more time with customers, honing data skills to achieve greater efficiency, liaising with other units for better cooperation, spending more time to set-up and perform experiments, etc. All those things which would have been beneficial, but have not been done because of other priorities, incentives, a lack of goals, no shared purpose or simply because of loafing

It is the job of a manager to redirect more work from the “Negative Value Add” area into the “Potential Value-Add” area. But the fog of business stands in the way of this undertaking. While the fog might be reduced by adopting a policy of utmost transparency, it will always be there. But there are ways to help people orientate themselves in this fog towards directing more of their work to beneficial undertakings:

  1. Allow people self-direction
  2. Give them the compass of a shared purpose of the organization
  3. Get co-workers to provide instant and rapid feedback, so that more work is seen
  4. Rely on broad measurements for the organization overall, and less on small, specific, individual measurements

The size of the “Negative” and “Potential Value Add” areas in the picture above must be vast, given that so many people are disenchanted with their jobs.

That is why self-fulfillment is such an important concept. It allows for people to re-direct their work to more beneficial areas, that are otherwise bound to remain unseen by managers.

Relatedness at scale: Social Control

But by just letting people off the leash in a quest for self-fulfillment an organization may end up with a bunch of uncoordinated egomaniacs. Motivation must be directed, by controls such as shared targets, organizational discipline (esp. in Holacracy) and – foremost- relatedness. Relatedness to other persons provides social control of a group. And social control is the most powerful control there is in groups of human beings.


Modern Management systems reduce the fog of business by designing a work environment to

  • allow people to self-direct towards Mastery
  • providing Autonomy and
  • to embed their purpose into the companies purpose
  • utilize social control for coordination

Therefore, Job descriptions are no longer needed. As job requirements and individual skills change, temporary roles become a much better tool to coordinate work and to arrange virtuous cycles of organizational learning.

Thereby, the overall outlook of employees on work changes from “a place to go” to the “things you do” – a much more dynamic and explorative proposition, don’t you think?


This was part 6 of the series on the comparison of the three modern management systems. Part 7 will be about outcomes:

  • What is the evidence that these management systems are working better than traditional hierarchical management?
  • What are the conditions?
  • Is it changing Mangement Systems worth the effort?

The updated comparison table can be found below.


By the way: The featured image shows a panopticon prison, where all inmates can be observed from exactly one central position, the tower in the middle of the round building. Such prisons were built in Southern US,  Latin America, and Western Europe. This is a like a wet dream for a control-minded manager. Scary fact: This architectural design is obsolete in modern times. Today, we get cameras and sensor to achieve total control at a fraction of the costs. A physical line of sight is no longer required.



  • Pink, Daniel “Drive”, 2011
  • I. Getz et al. “Freedom 2.0”
  • J. Appelo,  “Management 3.0”
  • Robertson, “Holacracy”

See ManagementDigital.net/Sources 

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