53: Moving Beyond Modern Management with Aaron Dignan

Is your organization more like a stoplight or a round-a-bout? That may seem like an odd question but while they do the same thing (manage traffic intersections), they operate in fundamentally different ways.

This week’s guest, Aaron Dignan, has spent the past 10 years studying organizations and teams with a new way of working that prioritizes adaptivity and autonomy over efficiency and control. Aaron contends that teams everywhere need to join them in the future of work.

As the Founder of ​The Ready​—a global organizational transformation and coaching practice—he helps companies large and small adopt new forms of self-organization and dynamic teaming. Aaron is an active angel investor and helps build partnerships between the startups and end-ups he advises. He’s also a co-founder of Responsive.org. And he has sat on advisory boards for GE, American Express, PepsiCo, and Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, as well as the board of directors for Smashburger. He is the author of ​Game Frame​ (Free Press, 2011) and ​Brave New Work​ (Portfolio 2019).

Aaron and I talk about the origins of “modern management practices” and why they no longer serve us, what old vs new operating systems look like and how to being transitioning your team to work in brave new ways.

Read the related blog article: Embracing the Future of Modern Management

Join the Modern Manager community to get Aaron’s OS Canvas PDF and instructions on how to use it to support your learning journey! Join by June 30, 2019 and get two special gifts – a Modern Manager mini-notebook and a Meeteor meeting notebook to help you distill meeting outcomes.

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  • Current management practices were developed when work was primarily done on a factory floor. The goal was efficiency. Yet today’s work context is very different – one in which the market is constantly changing, the work itself is evolving, and the goal is to be nimble and adaptive.
  • Complicated systems are machines that can be fixed and optimized, like a wrist watch. Complex systems are dynamic and unpredictable. They can be managed but not solved, like a garden. Companies are complex and we need to stop treating them like machines and start approaching them more like gardens.
  • It’s time to update our “operating systems” – the underlying assumptions and norms that guide how we work. We need do annual planning and more dynamic planning, empower the people doing the work to make decisions as they learn.
  • For every process and practice in the workplace, there is a “command and control” way of doing it and a “trust and empower” way of doing it. Our organizations are overwhelmingly command and control oriented.
  • The job of a manager is not to create perfect execution – it’s to create continually growing capability.
  • Start by asking your team members: “What’s stopping you from doing the best work of your life?” and then ask “Well, what can we do in our team to take one step forward on that issue.”


Website: https://theready.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/aarondignan

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aarondignan/

Book: https://www.bravenewwork.com/

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