Zappos has been a successful company in a number of ways. In addition to tremendous profits, they’ve shown that they can provide amazing customer service by empowering individual employees. Now they’re taking another step forward as they move the company to holacracy and eliminate the traditional managers from managing people.
The idea in this new structure is that leaders are responsible for circles of people, and employees may be part of numerous circles. It sounds to me as though this is close to the early stages of startup companies where each person has to wear many hats and be responsible for a variety of tasks. I’ve had to manage databases, back up system administrators and Exchange administrators, and even work with telecommunications providers and ISPs at some small companies. All while taking direction from people I didn’t report to.
It sounds like it’s a structure that many IT people would enjoy. Be responsible for getting work done on different projects or areas, but managing your own efforts, schedule, and priorities. Many of the technology professionals I’ve known like to be assigned work, given a deadline, and then left alone, working at their own pace and schedule to get things done.
There have been some smaller companies that have embraced this idea, but Zappos, at 1,500 people, is the largest. It will be interesting to see if they can make it work. Time will tell, and I am hoping that Tony Hsieh will update us, perhaps with another talk or lecture that describes the culture inside the company. I rooting for this to work because I do subscribe to the ideas that we are driven by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I see structures that free people up while requiring responsibility as the best way to move a company forward.
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