Empowering Dynatrace employees with the Autonomy Principle

Giving everyone the ability to implement change and pursue projects with a great degree of freedom.

  1. Motivation among employees is increased. Employees feel competent in their ability to make decisions and feel trusted by the company.

Being autonomous as an employee is not the same as being autonomous as a country

An autonomous country is one that can conduct its policies as it wishes, including foreign relations, security policy and budget; it can also choose to participate in various international frameworks. As an employee (at Dynatrace or elsewhere), you aren’t autonomous in this sense: You’re bound by your work contract, national work laws your team membership and the relationship with your leader(s).

It’s also not the same as being independent

Being “autonomous” could mean that you don’t depend on anyone for your sustenance. For example, if you’re a farmer with your own little power plant and sufficient knowledge to maintain or even build your own buildings and machines, you might be considered autonomous in that sense (I have an uncle like that. He’s also a bit crazy, but that’s probably just a side effect of this autonomy). As an employee, you aren’t autonomous in that way: Depending on your area of expertise you’ll need support from a lot of different people to get food on your table, like IT, support, office management, people management, etc. That’s actually one of the main rationales for forming a company, an enterprise, in the first place.

It’s more like being an autonomous car

I’m not comparing your unique individuality with a computer program, just to get this straight right off the bat. That being said, I think that an example of the use of the word “autonomous” that comes closer to what we mean is when we talk about autonomous cars (as opposed to non-autonomous ones).

Photo by Steve Freling of Motor Oomph

Sometimes, you have to follow orders

Working autonomously means in practice that your daily life will be a mixture of both, autonomous and non-autonomous mode. Sometimes, you have to simply do what you’re told by your lead or those you report to. It’s something that can happen in any company. However, and that’s the whole point of formulating “autonomy” as a cultural principle at Dynatrace, it shouldn’t be your main modus operandi.

It implies that you have a clear goal or a plan

Ideally, you’d have an extremely clear picture of a totally comprehensible vision, a goal, so that you know what is expected from you. Then your task should be to find the “best” way to help that vision come true (while always staying inside the bounds of the rules and guideposts that apply). The fact that “autonomy” has such a central place in the cultural guidance at Dynatrace shows that you’re encouraged to think this way for whatever task you currently have: Does what I’m currently doing further the vision, the goals of the company (i.e., all of us)? You’re responsible to make sure of that.

And it does not mean that you don’t need anybody

Another prerequisite for arriving at a sound decision is to involve other people in your thought process. Consulting with your peers isn’t optional: you’ll discover that there’s always something that you didn’t think of beforehand. You never know all the constraints of the problem you’re thinking about. Since you’re responsible for your actions, it’s absolutely in your own best interest to make sure you’re not missing anything or would even do more harm than good with your initiative.

And finally, it means taking on responsibility

It might seem scary to feel responsible for something, but It’s great to take on responsibility, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Make sure to consult with your peers and document your decisions, especially if there were counterarguments during the consultation phase.

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