The more alignment you have, the more autonomy you can grant. The one enables the other.
The best managers figure out how to get great outcomes by setting the appropriate context, rather than by trying to control their people.
In his 2009 presentation on Netflix culture, Freedom and Responsibility,1 CEO Reed Hastings describes a dynamic common to many growing organizations. As organizations get larger, they become more complex in terms of the systems they are evolving and running, the business environment in which they operate, and their ability to “get things done.” Eventually the business becomes too complex to run informally, and formal processes are put in place to prevent it from descending into chaos. Processes provide a certain level of predictability, but they slow us down and do little to prevent bad outcomes from events that cannot be managed through process (for example, work that goes according to plan but does not deliver customer value).
Management through process control is acceptable in certain contexts within manufacturing processes (the kind of systems for which Six Sigma makes sense), but not in product development—where its result is optimizing for efficiency and predictability at the expense of innovation and ability to adapt to changing conditions. Geoff Nicholson, the father of the Post-It Note, claims that 3M’s adoption of Six Sigma at the behest of CEO James McNerney (formerly of GE