Power is in the proof - Lean management pays big!

How do you run a business without managers

The IT company co-founded back in 1997, decided not to have any managers.

So rather than have presidents, vice presidents and managers, all employees had an equal say in running the company. This was backed up by the fact that all employees were also co-owners, every new hire being offered a stake in the company after six months on the job.

We sat down and made a list of all the categories of tasks we had in the company. Sales, finance, intranet, our website, personnel, etc. There were around 20 in all. Then instead of appointing managers responsible for each of these, we asked who in the company would like to do it, and let people choose for themselves where they wanted to be involved. Interestingly, everyone signed up for at least a couple of these and every single task got at least one person assigned to it.

Paycuts or firing 5 people. Discussions raged. Some held out for the pay cuts. That became a unanimous decision. And a good one too - just 6 months later we had signed new customers, and every single consultant was back in business. If we had fired people back then, we would have missed them sorely.

I realize that this experiment worked for an IT company of just 20 people and that you can't possibly generalize from that to larger companies in other fields. And yet I believe that this is certainly a viable way to go. That what companies really need is leadership that is dynamic, distributed and entirely voluntary. Leadership that switches from person to person, depending on who has the will and the energy, rather than what it says on somebody's business card.

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