On Valentine's Day of 2015 Fitzii got rid of manager responsibilities in favor of a 'self-management' system. These slides accompanied my 5 min talk about it at DisruptHR Toronto, which can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/136841050
I'm Edwin. And I’m a recovering Manager. It’s been 118 days since I was last drunk on the power of being able to tell adults what to do all day. I demoted myself, along with the other managers at Fitzii, when we decided to become a self-managed organization.
This is when I usually get strange looks. No managers? How could that possibly work? Things at Fitzii and other self-management organization work smoothly, because of one Golden Rule. Anyone can make any decision, provided they use the "Advice Process".
This means that when making decisions you must seek the advice of people who are affected, as well as any subject matter experts. The bigger the decision, the more advice you seek. You don’t have to follow the advice of everyone, just ask for it and consider it, when making your move. Buffer does this too.
We have found that moving decisions from top-down management to the people who care and know the most about the decision, drives better, faster, and more collaborative action. And it’s also the secret to driving amazing employee engagement.
We all have heard the sorry stats from Gallup that in the US and Canada 71% of people are not engaged in their work. And do you know what the #1 driver is that influences employee engagement?
That’s right. 70% of engagement comes down to the quality of the manager. But Gallup says that 9 out of 10 of people don’t have the necessary traits to be a great manager. So 70% of us are checked-out because of our managers, and the stats tells us it’s not going to get better.
But I dream about a world where these engagement stats are flipped. Imagine if 70% of people absolutely loved their work. What would that mean to our happiness, to productivity, to innovation?
Business is the most powerful institution in the world. It’s responsible for most of the great things we have to be thankful for, but it also takes the blame for most of the worst things. The best way to maximize the positive impact of business, and change the world for the better, is to increase employee engagement dramatically.
But that’s not going to happen in this system we have, so I say, let’s throw out the baby with the bathwater! We created “management” in the 1900’s to help us create factories. Things have changed, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s get rid of managers!
Peter Diamandis, the creator of the X Prize, said that “The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it's a crazy idea.” I see this idea moving fast from crazy to breakthrough because there are many successful companies, like Fitzii, that are proving that it works.
There was an amazing book published last year called ‘Reinventing Organizations’, by Frederic Laloux. The book explores the movement towards self-management, and includes detailed profiles of 12 self-managing organizations from around the world.
There’s an in-home nursing company in Holland with more than 8000 employees, and a 40,000 employee energy company who bought power plants all around the world, to the makers of Gore-Tex, who have been self-managing for more than 50 years.
And this crazy idea is catching on. Zappos, the company that was on Barbara Walters for having the most amazing culture decided that even their engagement wasn’t good enough. Tony Hsieh the CEO at Zappos has been moving his company to self-management over the last year and a half.
It all started when Tony read that when cities increase in size they become more productive. But as Zappos grew to 1500 employees they were getting less productive. So Tony decided to address the root cause of the productivity issue – and get rid of managers.
They’re moving to a self-management system called Holacracy. They recently made news by offering a “shit or get off the pot” severance package to anyone who reads about the 12 amazing self-managing companies in the Reinventing Organizations book, and still decides this is not for them.
And you can guess who are taking the packages at Zappos. The biggest challenge in getting rid of managers is – figuring out what the managers should do. We spend our career climbing the corporate ladder into more responsibility for directing work.
Since nobody HAS to follow my direction, I’ve learned more about true leadership than ever before. I see what works and doesn’t work, and have gotten valuable feedback that people never shared with me before. This is the best leadership development program there is.
Some people think that self-management will lead to chaos, because there’s no leadership. But it’s exactly opposite. Everyone takes on more leadership in areas they care about, and follow other people’s lead because they want to, not because they have to. Good ideas move along, and bad ideas don’t.
Companies assume that people can’t be trusted, so they name the “Manager” the parent, and the employees are children. We know that when people don’t feel trusted, they disengage. But if your whole system assumes that people can be trusted, they’ll live up to those expectations.
In this way the company moves from being a machine, where people are dehumanized and treated as “resources”, to more like an ecosystem, or a city, where people self-organize around things they care about to get things done with maximum efficiency and engagement. And all we have to do is cut the strings and… Get Rid of the Managers.
Let's Get Rid of Managers!
Let’s Get Rid of Managers
Head of Marketing at Fitzii