‘Management free’ 1000+ employee companies?

5 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

When I hired my first colleague in 2007 I decided that she should have just as much fun in her job as I did. When the teams grew and the biggest team, the advice team, grew to 5 people the mores stated that one of the colleagues should be team leader and we saw the first signs of management within the organization. It never felt right. There is never one person in a team that has all the qualifications you want the perfect manager to have.

Going no management at Voys

A book by Ekhart Winsum, a business owner who pioneered the cell structure in the Netherlands already made more sense but it did not click entirely. It was not until I read the Valve handbook we decided that we could do it without management. Before the company reached 25 employees we decided that we would go management free and job description free. We thought out and tested a new organization model which we humbly called the Voys Model (Dutch) and by the end of 2012 we implemented it in the organization.

Happy colleague, happy customers

Looking back it has literally been the best decision ever. Not only are our employees very happy people, our clients are happy people too (for the nerds, a NPS > 50% over more then 1000 feedback forms, reaching a record of 58% this January). Voys has been one of the fastest growing companies of the Netherlands over the past few years growing 60% or more each year over the past 7 years.

Other examples

Once you start communicating that management free and job description free makes far more sense in modern time organizations, people start sending you information on other companies who did the same. First Semco, and later on Medium and recently even the 1500 employee large Zappos joined the party.

For us, it was easy

The thing is that companies like Medium and Zappos are rather easily transformed. Like Voys it’s already in the organization DNA to do things differently. Like Zappos, Voys has a very Open, Personal and Supporting culture. Like Medium we had the chance to build the system from the ground up hiring people who where a fit to the company culture. But what do you do when it’s not in your companies DNA.

How do you pivot a traditional 1000+ size company

I have spoken to lots of people and groups over the past few years about our organization model. From large groups of bankers, to groups of managers from various police departments. The one question I am incapable of answering is how to we change organizations this big (>1000 employees and up) to this new way of working. How do you ‘create’ an open and supporting culture? The most likely place to look is at Semco. The only problem is that dutch labor law it very different form US or Brazilian labor laws. The firing charges of 10 management layers, like Semco did would bankrupt the companies – yes even the bankers and the police departments 😉

1000+ employee companies that pivoted, do they exist?

So my question is, do they exist. The traditionally managed companies employing thousands of people who pivoted their company, and if they exist how this they do it. Was it a 5 year plan or a radical shift like Semco and which of the two worked best.

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