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"Besides being small, 37signals has always been a flat organization."

..

"We've experimented with promoting a few people to manager-level roles."

So they are flat, with no chief anything, but they have 'manager-level roles'? Am I missing something or is there a contradiction in his description?

Edit: Got it, 'experimented' meaning that they tried, didn't work, and they went back to flat. Thanks for the responses.

Besides that I find that even with no job titles or formal roles, people within a company tend to self-organize and take on de facto roles. The only difference is that it isn't formalized, and people who end up managing aren't being paid manager salaries or getting manager options.




We've experimented. That's how we've become more confident in our decision to be as flat as possible. We believe it continues to be the right direction for us.

Re: manager's options... We don't offer options so that's not an issue.


Key word: Experimented?

Past tense, too.


My cocktail title at 37signals is "Product Manager," so whatever experiments are going on with management aren't completely past tense. I do UI design, work with the programmers, help design and dev work together and contribute strategy ideas to the partners.

Despite the cocktail title, there still isn't a clear "path of authority" or anything like that. The buck stops at the partners, and the rest of us function like a meritocracy. The ones with a track record or expertise on a given topic have a respected voice, and there is always opportunity for expertise to shift or widen over time. It's that fuzzy-edged quality to the role that makes it feel experimental for me.




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