One on One with Line Morkbak

By Matt Hoffman

I had the privilege to continue the conversation on global teams and management 3.0 with Line Morkbak, after her speaking engagement at the 2017 PMI Portland Annual Conference. In this interview, we explore current trends in managing cross-cultural teams, gather a fuller understanding of how Management 3.0 operates, and forecast changes in the future of management dynamics over the next 5-10 years.

I hope you enjoy this interview with Global Business Consultant, Line Morkbak.

Question: Thank you for taking the time out of the PMI Portland Annual Conference, day 2, for this interview, Line. Before we begin, could you give us a brief introduction?

Line: Sure Matt I’d be happy to. My name is Line Morkbak, I live here in the Portland area and am a Global Business Consultant. Often, when I described what I do I say that I am facilitating Global conversations and global dialog around collaboration. As an interculturalist, my big passion is collaboration. I help to ensure that, if you have a team from India and a team from Singapore; France and the US, that those people honor each other and learn to collaborate. I do a lot in virtual collaboration as well make sure teams have the right tools and skills to navigate the different channels in a virtual environment. I'm also a big fan of self-organization and what happens in that “complexity space”. I love complexity theory and work with the material that is labeled Management 3.0.

Question: Speaking of self-management, how well is it working these days? We’re in the 21st century at this point, so I’d imagine that we’ve got it all figured out, right? (laugh)

Line: I'm seeing it applied in many different ways. I'm seeing younger organizations in the software world and startups naturally organizing themselves and building up their company structures around concepts of self-organization, sometimes hardly being aware of it.

Then I'm also seeing the hardcore old international companies, like John Deere, and in there IT teams they do agile and some sort of self-organization, but because the larger company culture is not corporately supporting that kind of mindset, it's just in little corners of the organization where it’s happening. In a way, almost whispering about what they are doing. So, that's probably each end of the spectrum in terms of how people are using it.

I'm seeing a lot of individual members and team leads being interested in learning the techniques and the mindset and tools, so they can bring it back and kind of populate some of those ideas and plant those seeds with their teams. That's really all it takes to inspire broader adoption. You don't have to wait for higher ups to say, “ok now we're going to use these methods of self-organization,” you can just start using them in your team.

Question: It sounds, from what you’re saying, that it’s natural to human expression or group culture to self-organize; that we inherently know how to build a village.

Line: Exactly, and actually, in the session we just had around self-organization and playing “Delegation Poker” from Management 3.0 during the OpenSpace session, Dan Walsh was bringing up the exact same concept. We actually have a lot of resources and skills to navigate complex space and complexity in general: whether raising children, or interacting with our in-laws, or training up a pet. So, we have a lot of skills of navigating complexity in fact, which is kind of The Human Condition, but for some reason we don’t take that whole skillset to work, because our work environment is structured more linear and more “cause and effect.”

Question: I was going to ask what is short-circuiting that natural tendency in our work environments and businesses, but it sound like you’re touching on that right now. That It’s because of the structured, linear approach in getting from start to finish that in essence is the short-circuit.

Line: Yes, and it’s because we still have a management mindset and framework where we train managers to organize production environment, more in line with the Ford automobile production processes. In this environment, which is more centered on production, it means that the role of the manager is to control and ensure everything is correct, and they're the one who is in change of how that processes is doing. In this case, we’re not really trusting that individual worker to have any other input other than do their part and clock into the machine.

Of course, in our creative economies, that’s not how knowledge workers function. We don't want to be micromanaged, and in most cases managers don't have the same expertise or specific knowledge that the SMEs have, and they shouldn’t have to. So, there shouldn’t be this hierarchy in terms of how decisions are made, however, this is the structure that is comfortable and we’re used to in our organizations. In or society, for example, that is how schools are built.

Question: Old paradigms are hard to change. For example, performance appraisals in our education system are traditionally based on conformity and rote memorization, which is changing, but still affects a strong influence on how we manage our professional work, once we enter the workforce.

Line: What's interesting when we start thinking about how to change organizational culture in that way, is also, and this is where I put my Global hat on, it's like we want to be aware that there are certain organizations, also certain national cultures, that may be more prone to old paradigms, because that’s embedded in the value systems they have already. And then there's other cultures making a bigger push to the new paradigm.

In one of our sessions today we were discussing an example, “Well this is hard to get my Indian and my Singaporean colleagues to understand what Agile means from the context of a Western worldview.” Well there's something around breaking down that hierarchy within the agile framework that is going to be a bigger push for international colleagues who have a cultural preference, and were taught to respect status and title more than we are in the US or Northern Europe. So, in my opinion, it is important that we are constantly tweaking these methods and these visions around how to collaborate differently, but we're tweaking them and building those team norms, so it fits those particular team members in that particular team.

We’re not saying, “Oh! Well here in northern Europe this is exactly the way things work and now you should go do this.” That’s the opposite of self-organization, Right! Because you’re not honoring the diversity that’s in that group.One of the rules around navigating complexity is that you are using diverse patterns of input. If you close down and don’t invite diverse input, especially with your team members, you misunderstood inputs that originate from unfamiliar or unexplored cultural dynamics.

Question: Right, so speaking of that, it does require leadership to bring that transformation forward. During our conference, I’ve heard repeatedly that the new leaders we need today are neither command and control nor laissez-faire, but rather they are Contributing Leaders. They may have some subject matter expertise, but they are also able to provide varying levels of interaction for the team: guidance, support, active listener… contributing.

Line: And I think that's very important, that when we’re thinking “leaders and managers” that they need to cultivate a certain environment, or cultivate a way for a team to collaborate with each other, which also means they need to know when to step out of the way.

Of course, this is when it gets tricky, right, because in the management 3.0 the whole definition of a manager is not to manage people like a micro-manager, but to make sure the right structure is put up. Part of that is to make sure that you are managing the structures and then, with the team, you find out what structure you need to have in place. With your people, you’re saying together, “oh, let’s do some self-organization.”

That’s what’s important. Then you’re not micromanaging your people, you’re making sure that you’re cultivating a work environment; you’re hearing what’s needed and then putting the right structures in place. At that point, you’re not managing those individuals, because they’re now able to manage themselves.

Question: We live in exciting times with lots of change. One final series of thoughts: How do you see this strategy evolving in the next 5-10 years? How do we make it work? Are there any roadblocks to this progression? Can we accelerate it? What’s our future in management 3.0?

Line: I think what’s going to accelerate it, is that where software development used to be kind of its own field, we’re having software developers in all kinds of Industries. In my experience, it's in software that you naturally have people who break down the boundaries instead of staying inside of them.

Those are the people who are like, “hey we want ping pong tables! Hey, I’m only wearing t-shirts, I don’t want to wear a tie.” These are the people who started to make changes 10 years ago. There's going to be more of that kind of personality, if you may, even in our more traditional work environments, because software just becomes a part of any business.

That's kind of what I'm seeing at John Deere. Those are the people, the IT folks, that just look completely different from the rest of John Deere’s open offices. So you can just see that influence kind of seeps in. That attitude change is what will affect change. And then there’s the next generations. The people who are younger than us just don’t ask the same kind of questions. They aren’t held back by titles. They’ll quickly quit places that don’t honor what they bring to the table. They won’t wait to get seniority over 10 years. That’s why bigger organizations that are more static need to change. They need that young blood. Organizations that don’t recognize or cater to that just won’t attract the young talent. Those two things are what will push management 3.0 forward in the coming decade.


About the Author

hoffman matt

Matthew Hoffman, PMP, ITIL, Asst. Dir of Content Marketing

Matthew has a passion for life, which defines both his professional and personal endeavors. His career, characterized by a hybrid focus on engineering and management, reflects a broad range of interests and an entrepreneurial spirit. Recently, this unique blend of skillsets has made him a key change-strategist at XPO Logistics, assisting the company in consolidating the post-M&A global network infrastructure. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Linfield College with a B.S. in Business Information Systems Management, and completed his PMP certification in 2017. Matthew enjoys team building and collaboration with colleagues from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. He has interests in virtual reality, philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and emerging management theories. Additionally, he enjoys composing music, story writing, and digital artwork.