If there is one recurring theme within the startup world, it is the idea that smaller is better.
Smaller companies are more productive, more agile and faster to market than their more bureaucratic peers. This notion is backed up with an organisational approach that has no traditional top down hierarchy. As traditional companies grow in size, the company gets slower as it scales as more and more levels of complexity to the company structure are added, and more bottlenecks in process and decision making are added.
Conversely we hear of startups being very flat in structure, and thus are able to innovate and explore ideas more freely without a boss getting in the way of the project they want to pursue. The end result is they often are able to deliver a better end result for their customers than their incumbent counterparts.
In an attempt to combat this in larger organisations, an approach known as Holacracy (Holistic Democracy) is being used to give startup nimbleness to bigger companies with many more employees. As the below video shows, it radically changes how an organization is structured, how decisions are made, and how power is distributed.
There are now major tech companies which have implemented this cultural shift with great success. Zappos, Medium and Valve Software being just some of the better known. (If you read our previous post on Valve’s company handbook, you’ll already be familiar with how they are able to plug their machines into any area of the office, and start working on their own or someone else’s project.)
Zappos in particular have a separate consulting business that deals with educating others businesses on how they are running their organisation with holacracy implemented.
Instead of a top down approach, holacracy allows the company to self organise, fix problems faster by giving more autonomy to employees and decide how and what they work on on a day to day basis. Instead of job descriptions being tightly defined, the approach focuses much more strongly on job roles.
What seems like a process that could be chaos, actually ends up pumping a large amount of productivity into a company as natural leaders end up running mini startups in smaller teams within a larger organisation, which is giving them the ability to once again feel (and perform) like a small startup company. It’s an interesting approach, and one that I think we’ll hear much more of in the future.
Further reading: http://www.holacracy.org