Erm...what? By whom? I only know of the incompetent Tony Hsieh that burned through cash at such a rate that his investors thought it a miracle that Zappos was still around when several large companies started looking to get into the online apparel business at the same time. It is widely rumored within Amazon that Zappos was a few weeks from bankruptcy when they were bought by Amazon, and it is pretty well known within Amazon today that they still aren't profitable. A match made in heaven?
Even if you don't see the same negative picture that I do, by every "track record" objective measure you can think of, he is two orders of magnitude worse of a CEO than Zuckerberg and Larry Page, and still not even in the same league as Elon Musk, or if you want to stick to apparel, Kevin Plank.
It is one thing to take puff pieces seriously, and another thing altogether to take autobiographical puff pieces seriously.
> Employees love Hsieh because they're (largely) on the same page, not bc of a reality distortion field.
His associate-level employees love him because they have a pretty good job that they couldn't get elsewhere. His managers hate him because they view him as incompetent and irresponsible. Everyone I know that works in or with Zappos sees this as a clear power play. He's trying to cut them out of the picture.
This guy is explicitly bringing it up because he's offering extra benefits to anyone who chooses to quit. He's being more accommodating than the average CEO, not less.
I have no reason based in fact to believe that this would be the case; this is just speculation based on my previous impression of Tony Hsieh with respect to his controversial impact on downtown Austin. He seems to be rather invested in being a visionary (if not messianic) figure.
What does it say on the blank first page of the Zappos employee manual?
All employees are equal, but some are more equal than others.
"We’ve been operating partially under Holacracy and partially under the legacy management hierarchy in parallel for over a year now. Having one foot in one world while having the other foot in the other world has slowed down our transformation towards self-management and self-organization. [W]e haven't made fast enough progress towards self-management, self-organization, and more efficient structures to run our business.
"After many conversations and a lot of feedback about where we are versus our desired state of self-organization, self-management, increased autonomy, and increased efficiency, we are going to take a "rip the bandaid" approach to accelerate progress towards becoming a [self-managing] organization. As of 4/30/15, in order to eliminate the legacy management hierarchy, there will be effectively be no more people managers." He goes onto to describe more about how this will work.
What does Holacracy entail?
"Holacracy is a social technology or system of organizational governance in which authority and decision-making are distributed throughout a holarchy of self-organizing teams rather than being vested at the top of a hierarchy", according to Wikipedia.
Yet there he is at the top of the hierarchy telling people to do it.
In traditional organizations, ultimate power comes from the top so implementing a large scale change requires a heavy handed top down approach.
The Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't NEED to follow ME, You don't NEED to follow ANYBODY! You've got to think for your selves! You're ALL individuals!
The Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!
Brian: You're all different!
The Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I'm not...
The Crowd: Shhhhh!
Quote starts at 1:20. One of the funniest movies I've ever seen.
Not arguing for or against holocracy, just think it is interesting that the jargon is what you seem twerked by m8 </s>.
Basically, informal systems are, by their nature, harder to regulate. And "unregulated" is not the same as "works well and fairly."
No system is perfect.
> there will be effectively be no more people managers
Management has a role. Business politics is a real thing. Power struggles are not stymied by an egalitarian approach.
Any company will have decision makers at all levels of influence and control. In some situations, managers are those with time and wisdom to be able to sort out what is a regular ask and what is going to be an uphill challenge.
One of my favorite quotes from one of my managers was "I'll finish the fights you start." My autonomy in that role came from reinforcement from a wiser, steadied hand. I believe good people managers have a distinct place in employee growth.
Good people managers create employee groups that generate self-organizational habits, self-manage based on goals, and have increased efficiency. Poor people managers get in the way of this. Good people managers know when to step in to advocate for business importance where inexperienced employees may be able to generate good work product, but not be good advocates (yet!) They also understand longer term missions that may have been disclosed to them, so that they can prioritize correctly.
This prioritization is vital. I don't think the people lead themselves to the verdict that their work/problem is low on the totem pole. Quite the opposite, people own the role they are in and advocate as best they can. Self-organization and self-management require a distinct understanding of the business and where one's work lies in the scheme of things. Without management acting as a buffer, this could create a lot of noise.
I feel like I need to read it three times, and still it feels like mumbo-jumbo.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, pseudoscience by any other name would smell as familiar.
I find the language of the memo and the motivations behind it execrable. I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with flat organizational structures and there's perhaps even some justification for using novel terminology to describe them. Valve's employee handbook is a great example of a flat org description done right. Eventually maybe Zappos will end up with a similar document. It's maybe a little harsh to judge them based on a rambling, incoherent, and cultish internal memo, but I know that I'm not inclined to work for Lead Link Grand Wizard Hsieh if this is the way he communicates.
> When these principles are applied, they insure that whatever structures are developed by different movement groups will be controlled by and responsible to the group. The group of people in positions of authority will be diffuse, flexible, open, and temporary. They will not be in such an easy position to institutionalize their power because ultimate decisions will be made by the group at large. The group will have the power to determine who shall exercise authority within it.
Holacracy? Glass Frog? Teal Organization? Reinventing Organizations? Huh?
Just let me do my work, damn.
Just read the linked email. It's non-stop buzzwords and references to "the book". This is the talk of a cult member not someone acting rationally. If you didn't know this was a CEO of a successful corporation, and instead you were told it was an internal Scientology memo, would you doubt it?
Self Management may or may not be a good way to run a company (it probably largely depends on the company), but there should be rational, compelling reasons for why it's the way to go. The articles included in the email are just Malcolm Gladwell style pseudoscience meant to lull top level executives into a hypnotic state of euphoria.
So, how can I repeatedly communicate dense ideas about how to keep hundreds of people aligned in dozens of dimensions using only extremely low-bandwidth channels such as weekly emails? One option is to use shared-dictionary compression in the form of a custom vocabulary of capitalized words. Of course, the messages will be inscrutable to anyone outside the org because they won't have the dictionary. But, that's not my concern.
After all, who is going to read a 30 minute long email? Only if you are threatening their jobs (and Tony is!)
"Adopting Holacracy isn't cheap or easy. The system has its own set of rules and lingo, and is complicated to implement. The Holacracy parent company, HolacracyOne, helps companies transition by offering consulting services that run from $50,000 to $500,000, depending on how long it takes to achieve self-sufficiency. Even for much smaller companies, like Medium, which implemented Holacracy when it was just a couple dozen people in 2012, the journey takes multiple years and has a steep learning curve.
Holacracy was invented by Brian Robertson, a 35-year-old former programmer with barely any management experience. He created Holacracy in 2007 because he had a "burning sense that there has to be a better way to work together," he said in an interview with Fast Company. Robertson, who describes himself as a coding savant, says he taught himself to program at age 6..."
In a holocracy, who knows.
The phrases are code words designed to reinforce the cult of whatever program or fad that the employees that operate the corporation (as opposed to producing whatever the corporation produces) use to control the rest of the employees.
This will be seen, among many other contexts, in official and formal employee evaluation processes. There will be "objective" measures, like "does the associate exhibit Glass behaviors? [rate 1 to 5]." "Does the associate promote Teal results, in their own work and the work of others? [rate 1 to 5]."
Yes, this is exactly what it's like in a large corporation. The names of the programs change, and the posters, colors and prayers, but it's all the same.
Replace sea org with teal organization, and auditing with 'tension meetings' and you got yourself a new cult!
Then again, I'm just jealous since I always wanted to start a cult :-(
If you want to a lot of dough, read the books and memorize a few buzzwords, buy a suit and name yourself a consultant.
I doubt anything will actually change below a superficial level, but everybody wants to seem important and the way management does that is by making sweeping changes (we engineers aren't any different, we just want to build impressive and geeking things).
I think he's referring to evolution here, but it has no end goal in mind. It just happens, and just as often as organisms adapt over time, many simply die off.
HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7409611
Excuse me while I raise a questioning eyebrow.
Examples, http://richg42.blogspot.com/2015/01/open-office-spaces-and-c..., http://richg42.blogspot.com/2015/01/microsofts-digs.html
Commonly, salaries are decided in a way very similar to the process at a "normal" company.
> To me it looks like he wants to have top management, a few superstars, and the rest of the company are totally interchangeable.
As I said, not much different.
Form the company's perspective this is probably a good thing but I think it results in a hyper-competitive situation for the regular employee.
It does have the problem you mention, that the leadership in practice will often end up not very dynamic. There's no leader, but the "lead link" of some particularly important "circle" will de facto be the leader of the organization, even if their official title is only something like Secretary.
Whatever the outcome, it's going to be a very interesting case study.
And precisely for that reason, lots of natural, evolving, overlapping hierarchies can emerge
―hierarchies of development, skill, talent, expertise, and recognition
"Good job that you've made it this far reading the memo. Please send me back an e-mail with your name + banana in the title, and attach an image of a banana or else you're fired. Thank you!"
I wonder how much staff they would have to fire ...
On a parallel note, say hello to games in the age of internet.
I am not passing judgement.
To quote Larry Niven, "Anarchy is the least stable of social structures. It falls apart at a touch."
Every book on business management and communications repeats the "keep it simple and clear" over and over. Considering the words of the CEO are repeated by dozens if not hundreds of people, you don't want the message to shift.
I read the article about holocracy, and frankly anything that is described as "difficult" and "painful to transition" and "takes years" just seems like it better delivers huge benefits. And from the origin stories of holocracy, I have my suspects of why.
In the end, management is all about human dynamics. All the advantages and disadvantages of being human. You have to lean in to the advantages and minimize the disadvantages.
I would probably be net negative on holocracy for my own consideration however.
Fortunately there are at least a few comments that didn't act like know-it-alls, and they did get upvoted.
Uncharitably lots of it sounds like giving up on managing - we'll set the strategy and the rest will somehow work itself out.
I'm not sure I've ever read those words outside a critique and found the document they were in worthwhile.