Should Organizations Rely On Self Management?

Topic(s): job performance
Publication: Harvard Business Review
Article: First let’s fire all the managers
Authors: G. Hamel
Reviewed by: Liz Brashier

There are some fundamental problems with top-heavy management. Managers spend excessive amount of time supervising employees’ work and add considerable overhead. A top-heavy management hierarchy also seems to encourage large-scale mistakes in decision making, with important decisions resting in the hands of few people at the top. In addition, a management hierarchy with multiple levels means wasted time when it comes to decision turnaround – actually getting anything done may require a dozen approvals.


In a recent article, Hamel (2011) investigates what can happen when we consider a large organization in which there are no managers, no titles, and compensation is decided by peers. To help illustrate how this ideal can actually be successful, we walk through the model employed at Morning Star, the largest tomato processor in the world.

At Morning Star, there are no managers. Employees discuss and divvy up responsibilities with peers. Everyone can spend company money. Morning Star’s model is based on the concept of self-management, which encourages greater initiative-taking, more expertise, a greater sense of collegiality, and stronger loyalty.


Hamel helps us to explore how we might implement elements of Morning Star’s model in our own organizations. We can start by have employees develop personal mission statements. We can work to expand employee autonomy. We must also work to erase the distinctions between managers and the managed, and work to increase manager accountability. It is important to note however, that not all organizations are suited to Morning Star’s model – it requires great care in the hiring process, a high level of responsibility from employees, and may make growth through acquisitions difficult. It is certainly interesting, however, to consider large organizations without multiple layers of management – and what that might mean for productivity and employee satisfaction.


Hamel, G. (2011). Let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, 89, 48-60.

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