04 January 2018

Leadership in a self managing company

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We're not the traditional company with the traditional pyramid-shaped organisation.

This means that we're not an organisation where all the wisdom lives at the top of the pyramid – the management – and the bottom of the pyramid is for execution of orders and instructions. Our function for management is different from the traditional one where managers have 1) visibility and 2) wisdom, which allows them to have 3) authority.

Everybody at Wunder is a decision maker 

Even if a person would not have power over starting new business divisions, everybody self-manages. This might sound like a small and superficial thing – and most times the self management decisions are tiny everyday things – but we make hundreds of them everyday and the combined power of these decisions is massive.

All of our staff have the freedom and obligation to decide over things like (but not limited to): 

  • Where should I work today? What's the most meaningful place of work for my tasks today?
  • What are my working hours today? Nine to five, a gap in between for exercise or grocery shopping, or a shorter day today to compensate for the long one yesterday?
  • What am I going to accomplish today?
  • How could I best improve the company?
  • How should I organise and prioritise the things I'm going to do?

Not rocket science and nothing revolutionary, but real self management nevertheless. Trusting people to self manage is an attitude more than anything else.

Everybody here is a smart intelligent adult, who will make smart choices for the company if given authority, meaning, respect and information.

In order to make wise and informed decisions over small mundane things or the big strategic ones that could disrupt an industry, the decision maker needs knowledge over the matter at hand. In traditional pyramids, all of the decisions are made at the top layers of the pyramid, because the knowledge is seen to reside there. If this is the case, people at the other parts should not be trusted with any meaningful decisions, because they lack the information and knowledge to make smart choices. While that's logical, it may not be a very sustainable or efficient way to run the organisations of today.

The Wunder way

In order to enable decision making at all levels of the company, we need to ensure everybody has the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions. This is one of the key functions – if not the key function – for management at our company. Our job is to increase the knowledge available for all of the company to make smart choices.

What this means for people in leadership positions is that we need to let go of much of our power and give it away. In addition, we're giving power away to people who are probably not used to using it in their previous working life. To make things more challenging, sometimes these people make choices that are not the right ones – decisions that we could have gotten right were they given to us in the first place!

Here comes the moment of truth: Do we learn from these mistakes by reverting this power back to the managers? Does one bad decision prove that this self management thing is fake news?

Or instead – should we try to figure out how we could have increased the knowledge of the person who made the less than perfect choice? Surely they didn't do it on purpose?

 

When we give power away, sometimes decisions are made with lesser experience or information than we at the management would have had. The positives – increased speed of execution, added meaning, empowerment, sense of ownership – still outweigh the negatives. Tenfold.