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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.