A couple friends and I were talking about whether this is a cult. I said it was missing a religion, because it had optimized out the unnecessary parts of a cult. Another said it was the religion of messianic capitalism.
"I heard about that memo a week ago. It is a total shitshow over there. The worst is the customer service reps, who now set their own schedule. As a result, nobody is there during peak hours"
Considering that Zappos' customer service is pretty much their claim to fame, this is going to get interesting real fast.
I've also seen some mentions that Zappos was adopting a "surge" pricing system for hourly employees to entice the reps to work the less desirable shifts. I'm really curious about this part.
Work is a social phenomenon. People aren't robots. What the heck are we doing to ourselves?
Fortunately, some smart-thinking entrepreneurs are there to, uh, disrupt depression with a startup mental health clinic and a startup church. Or something.
It's all bullshit and there is always a hierarchy. My company did it really badly by letting my bosses put titles in their LinkedIn profiles, Zappos may do better in that regard but there would always be someone who overseas you. As other comments mentioned the irony is "the CEO" said all of this!
- we still think in titles (hierarchy) vs roles (context)
- eg someone can have the role product strategy and that gives him ownership about certain decisions
- we still thinking of "managing people" like of "managing resources" vs setting up processes and communication when processes fail
Someone has to figure out schedules priorities and whatnot. But I don't give a $#@% about that sort of boring people-stuff, because I only care about interesting technical problems.
How does this get handled?
People do not always follow the same process over and over again. When they do, that's an excellent candidate for automation.
People can have multiple interests and skill sets, but those won't always include negotiation and constraint optimization. Those tasks still have to get handled for everyone, even the people who won't handle them for themselves.
There will always be hierarchies. There are at least two fundamental ones: skill, and scope. Neither maps exactly to management hierarchies.
hierarchy will always exist (if at least someone has to pay or fire you)
authority will always exist (if at least someone will be more experienced in a topic)
processes will always exist (and someone has to put them in place)
you can have processes in place for emergencies, deciding if those emergencies are worth dropping stuff, for boring bugduties etc
the shift is imho not so much about making everyone his own boss but about pushing decisions as far as possible "down the chain" until you do no longer need to think in "hierarchy chains" but roles and groups of people
"this apparent lack of structure too often disguised an informal, unacknowledged and unaccountable leadership that was all the more pernicious because its very existence was denied."
People interested in ultra modern flat management structures would do well to look up the history of communes, collectives, and other experiments in self-organizing.
Specifically about Martian colony and how decisions were made there.
Privatizing power while socializing accountability/responsibility :)
Seriously - somebody please tell me.
I don't get it.
There's always been a handful of smallish companies where everyone is skilled enough and get along well enough to not bother with traditional management. And because everyone is highly skilled and play nicely together, they tend to do very well. And since they do so very well, the obvious difference (lack of standard management roles) is obviously responsible and becomes a topic for fad business books and expensive seminars.
"A new circle called Reinventing Yourself has been created to help guide former managers to new roles that might be a good match for their passions, skills, and experience. Hollie is the lead link of that new circle"
So, Hollie is a manager of managing former managers' efforts to no longer be managers ?
They grew a bit more organically than this, however, so the structural result is very noticably different.
Perhaps this is similar to the often stated reason for 'failed' democracies: they need to grow rather than be forced upon a population?
Or you write it yourself, and then it goes to the committee for grading.
"There is actually a hidden layer of powerful management structure in the company," she claims.
"And it felt a lot like High School.
"There are popular kids that have acquired power, then there's the trouble makers, and then everyone in between. Everyone in between is ok, but the trouble makers are the ones trying to make a difference."
"Called "holacracy," the new system replaces the conventional command-and-control workplace with a series of self-governed teams, known as "circles." "
i first read it as "cliques" :)
Except for the whole Half Life 3 issue. The fans have been clamoring for it for years, presumably someone in Valve wants to make it... but the company has been unable. I don't know if it's they've been unable to keep a project going strong before the team splintering, or there's several competing internal projects, or if there's one which is being unmanaged and so is growing unboundedly, or something else entirely. But something's going wrong there.
(only somewhat joking.)
We had 3 suicides last year by entrepreneurs tony invested in and took under his wing here in Vegas as part of the Downtown Project dystopian hell he makes zappos employees live in here.
Cult. Pure and simple.
Oh the irony. So basically what I gather is Zappos is trying to find a way to drive down the salary of all employees by removing their titles. Except for the executives... because you HAVE to have executives, even with fuedalism... er... "holacracies".
>Hsieh's memo says they will keep their salaries through the end of 2015 and will get guidance for reinventing themselves into new roles at the company.
Yup... "We want to gut all the high paying jobs from our organization by giving the rest of you the job your managers had before. Hope you enjoy the additional job titles, we won't be increasing your salaries".
These sorts of moves are usually filtering functions on the types of employees you employ. They'll encourage everyone who doesn't fit the company culture to quit - which, ultimately, makes the company stronger. The beauty of our market economy is that you don't have to work in a company whose culture you find offensive, you can find one whose culture is more to your liking.
maybe. or just an echo chamber of like minded drones?
<cue civil rights movement>
<cue women's rights movement>
Maybe for the most part now that those are done, but I'm sure there's a few things left.
<cue religion-vs-LGBT flamewar>
<cue women-in-silicon-valley flamewar>
Why is it impossible?
Source? At the most basic level, having a wall between two people makes it harder to collaborate than no wall by the sheer fact that the other person can't hear you.
Meanwhile, you have not provided a single source to back up the pretty bold claim that private offices don't impede collaboration and instead decide to straw man that argument. I've explained the incredibly obvious and basic impediment to communication that a wall can bring, please refute that claim and provide proof that a private office does not impede collaboration.
My last workplace had private individual offices for developers. My office was big enough to have two people working together in it full time, and big enough to have 4 people in it comfortably for 2-3 hours.
With that in mind let's talk about communication. There are a few different types of frequent office communication. Let's compare an open office with private offices for each of them.
1) a coworker is blocked and can either spend 10-15 minutes figuring out the issue on their own or can ask you to get an immediate answer.
In the open office he will usually ask you and pull you out of focus. This has a large negative impact on productivity when it happens throughout the day. In a private office scenario he works it out himself. His problem solving skills increase, and you stay productive. Big win for private offices.
2) a coworker is blocked and it will take her a day or two to work it out herself or she can ask and you can tell her the solution immediately.
In the open office she will ask immediately and you save two days at the cost of impacting you for 30 mins. Winning. In a private office she will struggle for 15-30 mins, make no progress, and then walk over to interrupt you. The open office scores a small win here.
3) a coworker is not blocked and you know the solution.
In an open office they will interrupt you. In a private office workplace they will send an email/IM and you can respond asynchronously without impacting focus. Big win for private office.
4) a coworker needs to work closely with you for an extended period (30 mins+).
In an open office you either hunt for a meeting room, or because that's usually a pain, you talk at your desks. This either holds up shared resources (meeting room) or disturbs everyone (talking at desk) so you keep the conversation/collaboration short. If you have a private office you can speak without worry leading to more collaboration. Another big win for private offices.
There are a few other common scenarios in the workplace but I think I have made my point. 1, 3, and 4 are more common and are big wins for better communication in private offices and only come at the small cost mentioned in 2.
When you decide to work for a CEO who called his own users "dumb fucks" for using his product, I'm not sure you should expect respect and humanization from the top.
Not really. Throughout its existence, Facebook has routinely made decisions that make me doubt whether it, as an organization, values people. I don't choose to remember the quote, I'm constantly reminded of it.
If you want examples that illustrate the effects of this mindset, you can find many here:
The common theme is flagrant encroachment on the privacy rights of its users, which I don't believe Zuckerberg feels his users deserve. Presumably because they're dumb fucks in the first place for using Facebook.
So sure, that makes the gap executives-employee seem bigger, but in reality its the same. With the advantage of a flatter hierarchy.
For I have experimented some of these, I found it way more enjoyable than having 3 to 10 bosses on top of me, where you consistently spend your time:
- covering your ass
- covering your boss asses
- discussing in meetings until another boss comes over and changes everything
- having to do whatever the manager decides if its a bad manager, even thus its against the team opinion
- discussing in meetings until the boss that isnt in your range of bosses decides a political coup (approx every 6month)
Ie, corporate life of a low-end employee.... yeah zappo's hierachy isn't near as bad as you make it to be, in fact - and while im sure its company depend, it seems rather enjoyable.
I'm not sure what the pre-reqs to executing it well are. Probably benevolent-ruler CEOs who own enough of the company to keep anarchy from developing (e.g., Gabe @ Valve). Or at least investors who are willing to get on board.
At least they doing it in a nice way. Sure it hides what they are really doing by making out to be something different and fancy, but they are giving the atheists a way out, instead of going for their head (count)s.
To suggest that managers aren't needed because the "group can just do it", is absurd. EVERY company has multiple departments in charge of different areas of the business. The job of a GOOD manager is to insulate the "do-ers" from having to deal with other areas of the business so they can focus on doing their actual job. Removing that title and "giving it to the group" sounds like a good way to create a lot of busywork to save a few dollars. And I can just imagine that the employees are expected to still get all of their normal work done - which means working after hours to have the meetings they should be having during the day, but can't because they're doing "their day job".
Maybe zappos has some crazy unique structure to how they do business, but I'm skeptical.
You want to find some followers among the jaded, found a cult/church with a twist. It's vaguely familiar but oh so different and full of vigor. Not staid and old. Those naysayers just don't get it.
* the other meaning of hacker.
In other words it gives grunt work a new shiny sheen.
Sounds like you've worked in a "flat" organization ;-)
"Anyone claiming there is structure, management, hierarchy, concentration of power or obstacles to freedom at Zappos will be summarily fired"
"We’ll know that Holacracy truly works when even the lowliest janitor at Zappos can threaten to fire everyone for not reading a certain book"
even the ultimate flat organization - Borg - had Queen. The rest - no titles, just roles, and pride themselves on efficiency.
Thinking about it, one can see how modern "open office in the name of collaboration/communication" is just a cave man's replacement of Borg neural field generators for mind-to-mind connection
You need management, but what you need is a constitutional workplace where there are real protections (e.g. people have the right to choose the team they work on, within reason, and performance reviews are for compensation upgrades only and not part of the transfer packet) that employees get to vote on and that limit management's power. I'd even consider extending that to a profit-sharing model that's more transparent and fairer than startup equity, which is based on some insultingly small percentage of some possibly-huge-but-how-would-you-evaluate-that number in the future.
There are several problems with "no managers". First, many tech companies tell every engineer, down to the junior coming out of college, that he'll be reporting directly to the CTO. Then he gets there and learns that he will actually be evaluated by his tech lead, who answers to a (possibly titled, possibly not) full middle manager... who answers to the CEO. It's dishonest as fuck, but really common in the startup world to use "flatness" to make a position sound closer to the action and to power than it actually is. "Flat" organizations are often alluring lies that hide the real power structures. It doesn't matter if Bob is an idiot who works 15 minutes per week; if the CEO will take Bob's word over yours when it comes to your value to the company, then Bob is your boss.
Second, if there are going to be power relationships anyway (and there are) it's better to answer to a titled manager with a completely different job description, than to someone who's technically same-rank and therefore also competing with you for work. You won't win in that situation.
I'm skeptical because I feel like managers are akin to cops. There are some really shitty cops out there, no question. But you need them, because the alternative is... that a police-like force emerges (organized crime would rather have order than violence) but it's not accountable to the public and the costs are erratic. With public police, you pay taxes and can vote officials out of office if they make bad calls. With emergent private police (thugs) the extortions and bribes can go up from day to day for any reason or no reason at all.
What's wrong in most companies is that the police are making the laws, rather than enforcing them for public benefit. Because most companies don't have any constitutional structure or real protection for workers, the law is "if you have power, you can do it" so middle management ends up making the law up as it goes, in pursuit of its own interests (maintaining and consolidating power). Management is a fine concept if management is put in its place and empowered to enforce but not legislate. I don't know how to put this into practice. It's hard, because you have to fight human nature.
In other words, the problem is the lack of constitutionality in corporate governance. Corporations are pretty much all run as dictatorships. That can work surprisingly well (in terms of efficiency and competitive supremacy) when the dictator has something unique to offer. It ages poorly, because the dictatorial role gets handed over and eventually it's in the wrong hands and everything goes to hell. Imagine what would have happened to Singapore if anyone other than Lee Kuan Yew had been in that position. Dictatorship only works when you have a very rare type of mind and get a true philosopher-king. (It's not about pure intelligence, either. It takes charisma and focus, too.) That doesn't describe most corporations or corporate leaders. For the most part, this dictatorial model leads to low morale, stagnation, and mediocrity.
That's why people hate management: we've all picked up that it's serving its own interests rather than that of the employees or of the company. All of this said, "no management" tends either to produce an emergent and less accountable management/police force or it tends to mean that power is concentrated at the top. So I tend to think that this "no more bosses" movement is somewhat of an overcorrection.
You mention that most companies don't have "constitutional structure," are you talking about an employee bill of rights?
What would you think of the idea of running a company literally like a representative democracy? A constitution and bill of rights, management as elected officials, employee "voter initiatives", projects compete for talent internally etc?
It might not be perfect either, but perhaps a good middle ground between militaristic top-down bureaucracy and Zappos-style anarchy?
The middle ground you described is a brilliant idea. What you probably need to enforce it, at first, is an enlightened dictator (i.e. the 1% who won't get power-hungry and fuck everything up).