I’ve started reading Brian Roberton’s book Holacracy, which talks about an organizational
management approach focused around self-organization and protected autonomy. It’s an interesting attack on the base assumption that we should build companies in the traditional, top-down approach where a CEO directs leaders who direct other leaders, through layers and layers of business leaders. Holacracy is the first non-traditional approach I’ve seen to business architecture (designing a company) that is cohesive and specific. Managing teams with a methodology like Agile Scrum is powerful, but Scrum doesn’t scale to an entire organization, without armies of Scrum of Scrum Masters. Early in the book, Brian lays out this metaphor of a business having its own operating system (including the org chart, business processes, etc.):
…the operating system underpinning an organization is easy to ignore, yet it’s the foundation on which we build our business processes (the “apps” of organization), and it shapes the human culture as well. Perhaps because of its invisibility, we haven’t seen many robust alternatives or significant improvements to our modern top-down, predict-and-control “CEO is in charge” OS. When we unconsciously accept that as our only choice, the best we can do is counteract some of its fundamental weaknesses by bolting on new processes or trying to improve organization-wide culture. But just as many of our current software applications wouldn’t run well on MS_DOS, the new processes, techniques, or cultural changes we might try to adopt simply won’t run well on an operating system built around an older paradigm.
Brian describes an entire methodology, like some of the prescriptive ceremonies and roles you see in Agile Scrum; which I’m still wrapping my head around. The core tenets of independent, autonomous roles seems incredibly powerful, because it seems to make companies much more scalable. And it reminds me of the core factors that Daniel Pink identified in Drive as what employees wants in their job:
- Autonomy: People want to have control over their work
- Mastery: People want to get better at what they do
- Purpose: People want to be part of something that is bigger than they are
Holacracy’s concepts explained in 107 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUHfVoQUj54