We Eliminated Management!… see what happens

About seven months ago – on Valentine’s Day to be exact – the team here at Fitzii had a fun ceremony to celebrate that we had officially eliminated any “management” responsibilities within the team.

We saluted each other and said… 

“We don’t have managers anymore!”

Why We Got Rid of Management

It all started when we came across an amazing book called Reinventing Organizations, by Frederic Laloux, which details the practices of 12 thriving organizations who replaced traditional hierarchical management with “self-management” practices.

These organizations made a radical shift towards employee empowerment and as a result created workplaces with amazingly high engagement and incredible performance.

The more we learned about this new organizational paradigm, which Laloux labelled “Teal”, the more we believed that it could not only benefit Fitzii – the self-management approach could solve many of the chronic issues plaguing business today.

So we bit hard – hook, line, and all.

Lucky for us, Fitzii’s parent company, the Ian Martin Group, is a B-Corp, part of a growing movement to improve the ability of business to positively impact the world. Many B Corps are attracted to self-management practices, and so with strong encouragement, we started down the road.

How ‘Self-Management’ Works

These days at Fitzii, no one has any special manager authority. Instead, we adopted a set of expectations for how decisions are made, using what is commonly known as the “advice process”.

Following the advice process means that anyone can make any decision, provided they first seek the advice of people affected by the decision, as well as any subject matter experts.

This is not a democratic or committee approach – the individual decision maker is left to make and be accountable for their decision – but they must seek and thoroughly consider all the advice they gather.

This requirement to work through decisions with all the right people not only drives both careful and creative thinking, it also uses the power of peer bonds to ensure that unpopular decisions are carefully weighed, reasoned, and explained.

Managing decisions through some version of the advice process is the keystone habit of self-managing organizations, but there are many other key activities that managers formerly took care of. Things like strategic planning, employee performance reviews, compensation setting, onboarding, hiring and (gulp) firing.

On the day we agreed to be rid of management roles we also decided to gradually implement self-management changes to all these processes as a team, with one person typically leading interested team-mates to come up with our own new way of handling each thing.

Learning From Our Journey

Now that we’re more than six months into our self-management journey we’ve had many conversations with people curious to see how it’s going. This is a major change, there’s lots to experiment with, and the payoff could be game-changing.

We were originally inspired by the 12 organizations Laloux investigated, but also have benefited from reading about other companies transforming into self-management, like the social media startup Buffer, and Zappos, the online shoe retailer who are implementing Holacracy (a more structured form of self-management).

The Zappos transformation has made self-management the biggest buzz in HR right now, and even mainstream publications like the New York Times and Atlantic are asking: “Are bosses necessary?

With all this interest, we think it’s our turn to give back and share our experiences with self-management. Hopefully we can inspire and help other organizations learn from this paradigm shift.

So from here on in, on this blog, Fitzii team members will share our progress, wins, mistakes and learnings for all to see.

Here’s a brainstormed list of potential titles for upcoming posts, which you can expect to come out every few weeks:

Why Comp Transparency Wasn’t as Scary as We Thought

How our 360 Peer Reviews Made the Best Annual Reviews Ever

Finding the Right Balance of Internal Transparency & Oversharing

The Incredible “AHAs” of We Found in Polarity Management

What We’ve Learned About Roles & Hierarchy

Lessons Learned Implementing the Advice Process

Using ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMAs) to Bond a Team

Our Process for Intuiting Fitzii’s Evolutionary Purpose

What We Learned in the First Six Months of Self-Management

[Update May, 2016: we’ve written quite a few of these posts, which you can find by clicking the ‘Self-Management & Teal’ category. The most comprehensive articles are the Six Month and One Year reviews that we did. Enjoy!]

If you’d like to be notified when the next post drops, just sign up for updates on the very bottom of this page.

In the meantime, check out the fiery five minute speech I gave at DisruptHR a couple months ago, called ‘Let’s Get Rid of Managers’.

Are you with us? Let us know what you think in the comments…

Unfortunately you can’t see my super-slick slides in the video, so I posted them here on Slideshare. People make fun of me for my addiction to PowerPoint, but this talk actually required 20 slides which automatically moved along every 15 seconds. ‘Twas a slice of heaven for moi. Here’s all the talks if you’d like to see some more of them.

Edwin is a marketing leader and general ruckus-maker at Fitzii.

21 replies
    • Bret Warshawsky
      Bret Warshawsky says:

      Dear Edwin,

      Thank you for sharing this video and your experience. I really enjoyed it. The project I am part of, is not an ‘organization’ yet in any official way so it’s interesting starting from the Teal (and beyond) perspective, before we have a huge team and established practices and processes.

      We love the Advice Process for our OS, I brought it straight to the small group here as soon as I read the book a few months ago. We have only just begun to explore and implement it as a group– we don’t yet have a budget or major decisions to make as far as legal and financials.

      I was wondering about your experience, as well as if you have any recommended resources on the aspect of advice process when it comes to actually determining what level of importance a decision actually is and who it affects, and related.

      So, for some, sending an email to a potential collaborator is literally a major decision (because they are networkers, communicators, etc) whereas that is seen by others as a minor decision. How does your community decide about the decisions (if that makes sense)? Do you have any guidelines or strategies to help people recognize the level of importance a decision has and who is affected?

      I think these question are probably more clear when it comes to assessing the expenditure of funds or company wide moves like messaging and product line, etc but for other organizations there are decisions that are equally (or not) as significant that may not feel that way to others.

      Have you had any experience where someone(s) didn’t ask for advice (or enough of it) because they honestly didn’t realize that others perceived it’s level of importance and its effect? If yes, were you able to establish any help/parameters/sign posts for people to use to ‘measure’ these things?

      Have you come across this question of mine in any other forums or places since you’ve been inspired by RO and the Advice Process?

      Thanks again for being bold!!!

      Bret

      Reply
      • Edwin Jansen
        Edwin Jansen says:

        Hi Bret,
        Yes we definitely found that the advice process is a tricky concept to understand, and a skill that gets better with experience. Some people get too much advice early on, some don’t get enough.

        One thing we benefited from was an ask that people who go through the advice process document their entire process, with their original bias, all the advice given, and their thought process in coming to a decision all there for people to see. This has helped us to more thoroughly learn from others’ experience of the AP as we go along.

        Another great resource is the wiki that Fred Laloux and friends are building. The section on the AP is excellent:

        http://www.reinventingorganizationswiki.com/Decision_Making

        All in all, I think it’s healthy to look at this as a new skill that will take some time and a bunch of mistakes to master, and to remember that progress will increase with the more sharing of experiences with it.

        Sorry it took me so long to respond to your question!

        Reply
    • Edwin Jansen
      Edwin Jansen says:

      Hi James – yes the comp transparency and self-setting has been a really interesting and valuable process to go through. We’ll write about it soon.

      Reply
    • Edwin Jansen
      Edwin Jansen says:

      Yes Heleen, both my parents are from Nijmegen and I can understand Dutch completely (my speaking is beyond rusty).

      Thanks for the kind words, it does feel like we’re all on the cusp of a powerful movement!

      Tot ziens!

      Reply
      • Michiel de Koning
        Michiel de Koning says:

        Great to see you’re both involved in this. I think I’ll write my Bachelor Thesis about it.
        If you’re having advise for topics to research, please let me know.

        I’m currently thinking about researching how a B Corp can become Evolutionary Tea. I’d like to take one specific B Corp, make a guideline, and gather best practices so they can be implemented step-by-step.

        Any recommendations? Thanks!

        Groeten, Michiel

        PS: ik heb 3 maanden stage bij B Lab Europe, en nu 4 maanden bij B Lab Australie, dus ben erg bekend en connected in de community.

        Reply
        • Luz Iglesias
          Luz Iglesias says:

          Hi Michiel,

          I don’t speak Dutch but I am interested in the same question as you – what academic research exists or is in progress related to self-management?

          I don’t have the answer but as someone who works at a self-managing organization (Fitzii) I wish I had access to studies about:

          – the correlation between self-management and financial results
          – the correlation between self-management and employee satisfaction
          – the preconditions to successful (and unsuccessful) self-management attempts

          Whatever you end up studying and writing about, I would love to read it!

          Luz Iglesias
          Fitzii

          Reply
  1. Chuck Blakeman
    Chuck Blakeman says:

    Great post, Thx Edwin. We have two simple questions everyone must ask in order to make a decision. They have refined the “advice process” for us a great deal:

    Before making a decision, ask:
    1) Who else will have to CARRY OUT this decision (everyone who regularly makes copies should buy the copier together – not one stronger personality)

    2) Who else will be AFFECTED by this decision? (a) those who receive copies need to give their input as to what copies they need, and b) the company – or wherever the money comes from.

    These two questions make the advice process work very well for us. Keep going! Best, Chuck

    Reply
    • Edwin Jansen
      Edwin Jansen says:

      Good points Chuck. I totally agree, we have also found that everyone who is affected by a decision needs to be consulted (in some way), as well as any subject matter experts who could shed additional light. In so many cases we have found the decisions become much better (and more bought into) when these two types of advisors are brought in.

      And thanks for all your speaking and writing on these subjects Chuck, you are a big inspiration!

      Reply
  2. lorella depieri
    lorella depieri says:

    Way to go Edwin! Takes courage to do what you know is right but not what is common. Love the book and am totally on board with the concept. Looking forward to hearing about the success you will undoubtedly experience. Sure hope to connect with you again soon.
    Lorella

    Reply
    • Edwin Jansen
      Edwin Jansen says:

      Hi Lorella! So nice to hear from you and thanks for the supportive words. We’ve released our first two articles now, would love to hear what you think!

      Reply

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