Creating an engaged organization part 2 – How to hack management

how to hack management - image showing the matrix code to denote hacking
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Courtesy of SEAC, we attended an online seminar with Gary Hamel, co-author of Humanocracy and one of the top business minds on the planet. Needless to say it was exciting! And there was a lot of information to absorb.

In part 1 of our series, we very broadly recapped some of the topics that Gary touched on in his talk, “How to create a truly resilient and engaged organization through the application of rendanheyi principles”.

Here, in part 2, we are going to do something a bit different. We are going to discuss part of Gary’s webinar called “how to hack management”.

Let’s get into it.

how to hack management - image showing a motivating message
Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash


According to Gary, motivation is a crucial driver of organizational change.

No organization is going to make the deep changes they need to make, unless they are committed to it.

In part 1 we discussed how organizations are wasteful and get bogged down in bureaucracy.

For a little while, some organizations manage to break free from bureaucratic orthodoxies. But when the time comes to make a full transition, they often go back to what they know.

This often means an organization has become bloated (too many layers and staff) and full of friction (decision paths are long and tortuous).

Gary has created a tool to help organizations get motivated and take the first step to change.

Gary’s tool, the “bureaucracy mass index” works like a BMI (body mass index) calculator. And organizations, like individuals, have to be motivated to lose bureaucratic weight.

Gary himself says “the first time stepping on the scale is embarrassing, but we need to have the courage to do it”.  

how to hack management - image showing lego blocks which illustrates the need for models.
Photo by Xavi Cabrera on Unsplash


Gary mentions that he has observed many times how some leaders share a common behavior.

When presented with how they need to change and how bureaucracy causes waste, they often say the same thing.

“Who’s done this before?”

Gary referred to this as “ambition deficit disorder”. He said that this shows a “follower mentality”. But it is not necessarily a barrier to change. It’s just that leaders often need a model, that’s already been used, to illustrate what’s possible.

In part 1 we talked briefly about the Rendanheyi model and about Buurtzorg. Gary said there are many innovative management models around. And each one can provide a roadmap for leaders.

how to hack management - image showing a thinking emoji
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Mindsets & how we think

When we see examples like Buurtzorg and Haier’s Rendanheyi, which can take months to understand, where does something like this actually come from? 

According to Gary, organizational change starts with how we think.

He states that “any organization is limited by the beliefs and mindsets of its people”.  

It is similar to any knowledge structure or field. Within a knowledge structure there tends to be a body of knowledge. Rendanheyi and the Buurtzorg example above are two, very new, bodies of knowledge.

The same applies to management. Managers tend to carry the same principles around. They have the same framework or body of knowledge. This is why organizations don’t really change, even if they add new useful things. Like, for example, mindfulness training for staff. They are addressing a symptom, not a problem.

And one of the biggest inherent bureaucratic knowledge structures is the idea of treating humans as a “resource”.

Gary talked a lot about how human beings that feel like an instrument do not give their best. And this inevitably leads to a lack of engagement for the vast majority of staff. Which entrenches more bureaucracy.

If management doesn’t have a deep sense of wanting to elevate people, they will never bring about organizational change.

Given all this, how do we change the management model. What do we reinvent and how?

How to hack management - migrating birds image
Photo by Jan-Niclas Aberle on Unsplash


Powerful systemic change is difficult.

And the hardest thing about migrating to a new way of doing things is that many people are comfortable with the old model.

But many managers, particularly middle managers, have learned over time to become good bureaucrats. They have learnt how to win battles and develop behaviors that encourage bureaucracy.

But none of those bureaucratic behaviors managers have learned bring any value. 

In fact, middle managers are even less engaged than their employees! Gary highlighted how this is understandable. No one enjoys being a surrogate parent to a group of adults.

Migrating to a new way of doing things can be done, by one experiment at a time. This is how successful change tends to work. It’s very gradual and incremental.

In the future most change programs will be socially constructed.

But, for now, change usually happens through continuous experimentation and testing. 

Fostering a culture of testing and experimentation might not just change your organizational model. With this culture in place, you can expect to see your products or services change for the better too.

Come back for the next instalment where we will recap the Q&A portion of Gary Hamel’s webinar.

Contact us via

How MAQE can help

MAQE has advised many organizations on how to evolve their organizational structure. If you need advice on migrating to a new organizational model, give us a call or message us on [email protected].