How to Implement Participatory Management

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Why has it been talked about Participatory Management?

It is not today that dissatisfaction with the business environment has increased. Recently, a survey by the International Stress Management Association showed that 72% of people are dissatisfied with the work. And you do not even have to go very far, if you talk to colleagues and family you will see that there are many people who are not so happy with their day to day work.

In my opinion the main factors of frustration are:

  • Lack of autonomy and decision-making power - many employees only obey orders and are seen only as gears of a larger machine
  • Lack of recognition - you are somewhat connected to the first item. If the employee does not make any decisions, he is not involved in important moments of the company and only does the operational work

In some other case, you will find dissatisfaction with compensation, overwork and relationship with work team or direct managers. I do not know if you realize, but all these factors are consequences of a centralizing management, where the decisions and opinions of those who are "down" does not matter.

I believe that more and more we have to understand that participatory management is essential for the retention of talent in organizations and growth of organizations.

What is Participatory Management

The concept is very simple and the name itself says its meaning. Participatory management is the management system where all the people involved with an activity will have influence over the decisions that will affect it. Understand that it is not anarchy or partying. Not everyone is commenting on everything. It is simply a way to bring all the employees involved with a specific challenge closer and to take into account different opinions.

Another important thing to understand in participatory management is that the role of the leader / decision maker continues to exist. The only (and great) difference is that other opinions, experiences, observations and suggestions are heard and taken into account for the final decision.

Thus, participatory management can be considered as a form of management where the employee participates and is part of the work process, from idea to implementation. Typically, it may involve 4 dimensions:

  • Behavioral

Undoubtedly this is one of the most difficult factors to control, since any company is made by people and when you have authoritarian or tax administrators you may have a difficult time implementing a participatory management. The stimulated behavior must be the autonomy of individuals, of trust and cooperation. Instead of sending, it makes much more sense to inform, involve, ask what you think and delegate the activity together with who will participate in it.

  • Structural

Excessive hierarchy in any business strengthens centralized management. To achieve participatory management it may often be necessary to modify structures and positions so that there is a greater exchange and less concentration of power on few people.

  • Interfaces and Stakeholders

Participatory management does not happen solely and exclusively in the relationship with its employees. To be even more open it may be interesting to talk with clients about next steps, to have partnerships with suppliers that offer mutual benefits and so on. Below in the examples you'll see a pretty cool case of what I'm talking about.

  • Results

One thing that can help in this process is having a very focused management for data analysis and results. At that moment no matter your position, if the data and results indicate that a path must be followed, it is the one that will be taken. This puts an end to the absolute power of decision focused on who has a higher position.

Examples of Participatory Management

Now that you have understood what participative management is all about, it pays to know some cool examples:

  • buffer

For those who do not know, Buffer is social media management software. Obviously in small companies with few employees it is simpler to implement open management, but in their case, it is not just a matter of size or not, it is a matter of opening the company and transparency.

To begin with, guys are super open and believe in exposing their results. In a post written in June were exposed all the results of the company.

Participatory Management - Buffer Results

The guys have such open management that they even have adopted a transparent pricing, where they inform all the costs, which involves the price and the final price to the customer, so there is no way to feel deceived

As not everything is perfect, in their blog area where they talk about participatory management, they tell us some experiences that have not gone very well and what they have changed to improve

  • Baremetrics

Another collaborative and open management initiative was that of Baremetrics, which created a dashboard where key information from participating companies becomes available. This process is pretty cool and can help a lot of other companies run benchmarking. Here's how the dashboard works:

Participatory Management - Dashboard Baremetrics

Did you see the Buffer over there? It is a matter of business philosophy. This is their dashboard:

Participative Management - Dashboard Buffer at Baremetrics

  • The Decision Maker

This is a book full of examples of how to implement participatory management and how to empower your employees. Perhaps one of the most striking passages for me in the book was when he compares basketball players to employees in an industry. Why do players love to play and often do employees become unmotivated? What's the difference if both are "employees"?

Participatory management - The decision maker

Basically, the main point is that the player has the power to decide what he will do, and when he has that possibility of choice and freedom, he takes responsibility for what he does and feels more important in the process. I see this as one of the key lessons in participatory management. You can not want complete commitment and 100% motivation without involving people in the decision-making process.


To close our list of examples, nothing better than bringing our own experiences and what we have already done. Some of our practices are:

- flexible hours and home office - yes, if you do not want to, you do not have to go to the office

- vacation at will, when you want - provided you with the responsibility and without affecting your work and results

- financial transparency - we show all data on revenues, revenues, costs, salaries for everyone

- autonomy for everyone - anyone in the company has the power to make the decision that you want

It may not seem like much, but instead of treating those with us as a worker, we treat as a partner, with all the freedoms and responsibilities attached to it.

And your company, are you ready? Challenges of Participatory Management

The truth is that talking about participatory management is very beautiful, but in practice it requires important preparation. As a manager, you need to understand if you are prepared and open to listen to criticism, be questioned and not do everything exactly the way you would like it.

I say this because if you really want to value your company's employees, you need to give them the autonomy to make their own decisions, and of course, that can go the way of what you would like. To make the process even more complicated, it depends (like almost everything) of the people involved in it. Therefore, some premises that we believe should be followed are:

  • Participatory management means having more responsibility for the outcome
  • For this, proactivity is everything. One should not depend on orders to do, one needs a great sense of autonomy
  • Usually the result is shared and therefore different areas must communicate very well to help achieve those goals
  • This requires a flexible organizational structure
  • And finally, leaders and managers need to play the role of mentors, integrators and, above all, people developers

Some ways to make Participatory Management a reality:

  • Suggestions and ideas box
  • Participatory Strategic Planning
  • Ideas contest
  • Financial open
  • Commissions for Specific Tasks
  • Flexible schedule
  • Self management

How to Implement Participatory Management

The truth is that there is no more correct participatory management model. You need to understand how your business works, what your employees think, what their longings are, and what they would like to change. It is important to find out what the main motivations and dissatisfactions are today.

I did a step by step that you can take as a basis, but remember to make modifications and adaptations to make it work in your reality. Another important thing is that you do not need to implement all the steps in one go, do it all at the right time for your business. Look:

  • 1 step - Understand what your employees think about current management

A good tool for this can be a organizational climate survey. If your company is small, a very open meeting, perhaps in a bar, with a few beers may be the ideal time to hear everything everyone thinks.

  • 2 step - Be more open with company information

Sharing the results (and showing how each employee's work is reflected there) can help increase a sense of responsibility and collaboration among all.

  • 3 step - Involve your team in the generation and implementation of ideas

The more ideas you have without being the management team, the more employee involvement will happen. To do this, brainstorm rounds or periodic meetings for this purpose in which people interested in the challenge can participate.

  • 4 step - Know who is part of your team

It's no use having the most participative management of all. If your managers do not know who they're working with, all that work can go down. It is therefore important to give personal feedback based on behaviors and have an individual development plan.

  • 5 step - Follow the changes

Keeping track of the implementation of participatory management is as essential as implementing it. Understanding how the interaction between areas is occurring and how employees are feeling will help take this process to another level within your company.

Some benefits:

  • Agility in decision making
  • More autonomy for employees
  • Organizes a little hierarchical structure
  • Increased motivation and internal satisfaction
  • Commitment to the outcome

What Participatory Management practices does your company adopt?

Tell us down here in the comments ...

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