Self Organisation — Part 2
Part 2 — The Evolution Process
In Part 1 of this article I discussed the various challenges that mondora faces as a self organised company. Here I would like to review the solutions we have found and that we are trying to practice in order for the company to run smoothly whilst being self organised.
Unbox People and Let Go
I once watched a Danish video about “unboxing” people, removing labels and viewing everyone as a human being without dividing “us” and “them”. The video passed on a very powerful message and I found it very moving and provocative. In order to trust each other, be kind to each other, accept and adapt to change together, we have to let go of prejudices, we have to “unbox” our colleagues and see them all for what they are: human beings just like us, with strengths, weaknesses, skills and fears. Only once we have freed our minds from labels will we be able to truly focus on trusting our colleagues and working in harmony with them.
Accept Self Organization may not be for Everyone
A self organised company works well when all employees agree to the terms and embrace this organisational model. It’s an easy enough thing to do for people who join the company, as they choose to work in this way. For those colleagues who were part of the company before it became self organised it’s an entirely different story. In mondora self organisation did not happen overnight and is still evolving. However not everyone who works in the company has the same degree of acceptance for this practice: to this day, self organisation in its purest form is not for everyone. So how do you deal with this situation? As mondora is a very flexible company that values all its employees, the answer is actually quite simple: those colleagues who require a bit more guidance should receive it, until they are ready to take the next step towards a more independent work model. So, for example, someone who needs help organising and prioritising work might receive some guidance from another colleague that acts as a team leader or project manager, without really holding any of these titles. In the same way, colleagues who find it hard to make business decisions without a fixed budget, can request to get a budget to work with, until they are ready to try this level of decision making for themselves.
Keep it Simple
A very important aspect of a self organised company that needs to be mastered is simplicity. Not over-complicating things is essential for a company to run smoothly, otherwise it would end up being just like a more traditional hierarchical one! It’s not always easy for people, in our case software developers, to keep things simple: when we make a decision together there is always someone that wishes to make a rule, or a whole set of rules, to regulate this decision. For example a few weeks ago we tried to figure out together how to divide company and personal expenses (software licenses, keyboards, adapters, etc). Some people argued it was down to common sense, whilst others proposed complex methods of voting or long rules for which items went in which category. In the end we managed to keep it simple by agreeing that any expense we were not 100% sure about would be discussed individually to assess its value for the company. If the expense is of value, then we proceed, if not then the person who wishes to make the purchase can decide to use personal funding, or research a better and more valuable alternative. “Value” here refers to the benefit created for the company, not economic value. Learning to keep things simple and reduce non essential work is a very important aspect of managing self organisation smoothly.
The Living Organism
Teal companies, a model in which mondora strongly identifies, tend to view themselves as living organisms. Every person in the company is like an organ, a part, of an organism that lives and breathes. For the organism to thrive, the organs have to work in harmony and a problem in one organ can damage the whole organism. With this mindset we can see how everything discussed previously, from communication to trust to kindness and simplicity, must come together in order for the organism, the company, to work well. This is why it’s so important for everyone in the company to be aligned with our principles and values, and to work together to ensure things keep running smoothly. It also means that when a colleague is having some difficulties everyone else should find the time to listen and help, as the whole organisation will suffer otherwise.
In the end….
For a self organised company to work, and work well, the most important thing to remember is the human aspect. It is people, living and breathing, who make up a company and are responsible for its actions and impact. When you practice trust, kindness and openness every day the company will be healthy and work well. A degree of understanding that not everyone is the same, or accepts new, evolved, practices in the same time frame is also essential: the company as a whole needs to adapt to the needs of the individual through flexibility, education and patience, just as the individual needs to adapt to the forever changing and evolving needs of the company. A company is alive and must not be tied down by rigid policies and rules. Keep it simple, listen for where you are going and stay out of that comfort zone!