Nutty radical egalitarians believe companies work better without managers



Napoleon the pig once famously said, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." That quote went through my mind as I read about Tony Hsieh, the superwealthy nutty owner of online shoe and clothing seller Zappos.com, who has abolished managers and hierarchy in his company, which is now also a social experiment plaything for him following an anarchistic style of corporate governance called Holocracy.

At Zappos... traditional corporate hierarchy is gone. Managers no longer exist. The company’s 1,500 employees define their own jobs. Anyone can set the agenda for a meeting.

At the June meeting, a trained facilitator, in this case a young bearded man wearing a blue baseball hat, followed the Holacratic method by asking attendees to “get here, get present, get now,” and encouraged everyone in the room to briefly check in.

“I’m a little sleepy,” said a wiry man.

“It’s warm out,” was the next reply. “I’m also sleepy.”

“I’m doing a Zumbathon for three hours this afternoon,” one woman said.

“My hands smell like oranges, so I’m a little distracted by that,” said Danielle Kelly, a former call center worker who is helping bring self-management to Zappos. “Also, I’m in this room for five straight hours of meetings.”

Here we get to the first problem immediately; without managers it takes forever to discuss things. And to decide things.

[An employee] said that the procedural formality of Holacracy, the ever-expanding number of circles and the endless meetings were a drain on productivity. “It’s taking time away from getting the actual work done,” she said. This was the same day as the software meeting, and as if still in disbelief, she said once again, “I have five hours of meetings today.”

At the meeting, Mr. Hsieh wanted someone to investigate a new system that would allow everyone at the company to see how many hours any employee had worked on a particular task, in keeping with the Holacracy vision of radical transparency. No one volunteered.

Here we see two more problems: first, with no hierarchy, no one wants to take responsibility. And second, with no managers and no structure, it's very hard to evaluate employees work. Hence the need to keep closer track of hours.

So far, however, no one could point to any innovations that have improved customer service or increased sales. Critical issues like how to hire, fire and pay people in a company with no job titles have emerged as sticking points.

This article basically writes itself!

Mr. Hsieh and his acolytes remain adamant that self-management will unlock the potential of Zappos employees, allowing them to be productive and creative.

Good! Never let facts, and real life observations, get in the way of ideology. I am very fond of Mark Levin's saying that conservatism and free markets aren't an ideology, but simply observation of real human experiences. "Conservatism looks at human expe

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