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Zelfsturing: voor elke organisatie?

Self-managing teams: OK for all?

The four companies described in previous posts (Semco, Morning Star, Nucor, Haier) each successfully managed to thoroughly transform their organization through self-management and reap the benefits thereof. Interestingly, these four companies differ in size, sector or activity, country of origin and private or public ownership. And only one of the four, Morning Star, has been working this way since its inception.

So, what can we learn from those four cases?

Concept generally applicable
The concept of self-management is not tied to the size of a company, the activity or the location / country. In other words, one cannot claim that it only works for a certain type of company.

Independent basic principles
A number of basic principles or characteristics return each time or are present in every case. These principles are therefore presumably independent of the company:

  1. An inspiring vision that is specific and clear for everyone;
  2. The organization - and in particular its top leadership - decided at a certain moment to place a high level of trust in its employees;
  3. The high level of trust, among other things, translates into a large degree of autonomy for employees, openness and transparency with regard to information, simplicity and absence of traditional control mechanisms or supervision;
  4. Employees work together in teams to reach mutually agreed goals and hold each other accountable for the realization of what has been agreed;
  5. Employees feel very engaged and there is hardly any staff turnover;
  6. In comparison with industry peers, productivity, innovation, growth and financial performance are well above average for these companies. Their employees also earn more than their colleagues in other organizations.

Key role for CEO
What clearly emanates from the examples described is the key role the CEO fulfils in introducing and - above all - keeping alive this way of working. And – most interestingly – the Nucor-case demonstrates that it is possible to pass on the vision to a new CEO, particularly when that person comes from the same organization and is therefore familiar with the way of working. It is therefore a key responsibility of the CEO to ensure that both the philosophy and the way of working become deeply anchored in the organization so they are independent of who takes the lead.

Easier from the start
Implementing self-management in a new organization is more straightforward because everyone starts from a similar vision. Introducing self-management in an existing organization deeply affects the organization’s structure and culture. Inevitably, such a process will require more time. In any case, a step by step approach is recommended, supported by a serious commitment and willingness from all parties involved to work in a fundamentally different way.

Not everyone’s cup of tea
Some people do not feel at ease with this way of working. Those who like hierarchy, giving instructions or exercising power over others, quickly moving up the corporate ladder or whoever likes to avoid responsibility, cannot thrive in this climate and will sooner than later (have to) leave the organization. An example of radical communication in this context is the mail that Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, wrote to his 1,500 employees in 2015. He gave them six weeks to decide whether they wanted to get involved in the Holacracy variant of self-management that Zappos had been experimenting with. Those who did not want to stay were given a severance bonus. Eventually 18% of the employees opted for the latter but Zappos had the rest on board to proceed.

Continued support from shareholder crucial
What one cannot infer from these cases - because the situation did not occur - is how important it is to have the support of a stable majority shareholder for this approach. Because there are examples of companies (e.g. Origin, FAVI) that had been working in this innovative way until a new majority shareholder arrived who was either not familiar with the philosophy or who was not supporting it. He then re-established the old command & control method thereby cancelling the innovative self-management approach.

Posted on 02-08-2018

Why CompanyDoctors?

Why CompanyDoctors?

It is always fascinating to watch young children playfully discovering the world. They explore, are immensely curious and try out all sorts of things. Their energy and imagination seem endless. Actually, they are constantly busy discovering, developing and expressing their potential.

OK, 25 years fast forward: after proper training, these young adults enter an environment that, for various reasons, is hardly reminiscent of their carefree childhood. Often there is not much room to express their potential, let alone to develop it further. However, their employer is also seeking his or her way in a world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) are rampant and in which the employer could actually make very good use of all potential present in the organisation. What a shame about the waste!

All too often, organizations pay too little attention to the human potential that is dormant in both their employees and organisation.

CompanyDoctors was born out of frustration over this waste. Not only about the missed opportunities but also about the impact of the waste on staff and organisation and, by extension, on society. We believe that organizations can greatly benefit from cultivating a climate of organizational wellbeing. That is not a soft philosophy but a forward-looking approach.