Thursday, May 21, 2015

The M-Word

"We're ripping off the bandage." -  Tony Hsieh, Zappos

Imagine having the serendipitous experience of meeting in person one of the most notable and accomplished Estate Managers, and only minutes later reading about one of the most notable and accomplished team builders making national headlines by exclaiming that managers may not be needed for building a truly successful team.

Today I had lunch with Bryan Peele of Estate Manager's Coalition, and I became more energized with the concept of estate management than I had been in a very long time (and this is somewhat important to maintain, being that it's my career!), only to return to work and read the front page of today's Wall Street Journal, of what Tony Hsieh is up to at perhaps the best team building organization ever known: that of eliminating, well, all of his managers. I wouldn't say the article totally de-energized me, but it did give me some pause, and some concern, naturally, along the lines of wondering if management itself, that which I'd held dear for so many years, could one day become a passing fad - yet some nay-sayers of holacracy could now be claiming the real passing fad is occurring at Zappos. 
Could this become the old model?

To be fair, Estate and Household Managers do more than direct and manage the performance of other staff members, yet, if that function were eliminated, would we still be called Estate or Household Managers?  After all, what kind of managing must take place, for a manager to earn such a title?  Would we then be known as Estate and Household Facilitators?  

Seems according to Hsieh, best to eliminate the manager altogether and start fresh. This is not unusual for Zappos, who has broken ground before as one of the best exemplars for team success, creating, therefor, one of the best exemplars for company success. Would this radical change work elsewhere? Is there ultimate value in eliminating the management function, or is there more value in keeping it? How would having no manager on your estate impact the day to day operations? 

Anyone who has read about Tony Hsieh knows his company really has very little to do with shoes (he famously owns only five pairs for his own use), the footwear is simply a portal through which he and his company has traveled in order to discover what works in organizational success, and what doesn't. And - he's been very good at discovering what works, including his current offer to employees of a generous three month severance package to leave the building in the event they cannot envision the same long-term benefits which he does, in an effort to quickly "ripping off the bandage" of old clunky hierarchy, and getting down to the new, streamlined, autonomous, self-empowering spirit (and business) of being an employee with no manager to report to.

Zappos isn't the first to experiment with flat-line organizational structure, but perhaps is the first to do it so swiftly, and in a manner boldly enough to make the cover of WSJ.

Would a holacracy of no managers work on your estate?  

Why, or why not?

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