The next level of organisations is emerging. And we want to be part of it.
Now, imagine you come home after long day of an interesting and rewarding job. You work with one of the best professionals in the industry. You don’t think about asking your boss for a pay rise in near future (or ever). You earn exactly as much as you think you should. Actually, you don’t even have a boss or a manager. Neither you are a boss to anyone. What’s more, you know that what you worked on today was the best possible business value for the customer.
Does it sound like an utopia? Unrealistic? Before being sceptical, please read this post and stay tuned for next ones explaining how radically different our organisations and our lives could be. And will be.
The crisis of current organisation model
Many people feel that we could create things with better quality and faster. We could avoid doing unnecessary steps, wasting money and time. What is stopping us is the way we run organisations, not people themselves. Employees, owners and customers often feel frustration and there seem to be no simple fix. Current organisation model has been stretched to its limits.
If you think for few moments about your friends or family complaints on their jobs, you’d quickly have a quite clear list of reasons why employees are unhappy in current shape of organisations. Some of them would be:
- They aren’t empowered to make decisions allowing them to do their jobs the best possible and most efficient way.
- They are not appreciated and they don’t feel that they earn enough compared to their growing skills.
- They feel the process and management are taking too much time compared to their actual job.
- They feel stressed by too much pressure of their supervisors.
- As they get older, they have a feeling they should get promoted and get higher in the management hierarchy, even if they’d be happy to stay at their current position.
Being a customer of a software company is not easy nowadays. Software is becoming more complex and customer’s needs change faster than it can be created. Companies are very often committing on the set of requirements at the beginning of the project and then pay for every change. Some common problems customers come across with traditional software companies are:
- They often feel like the company is too distracted by other purposes and internal problems to totally devote to bringing their business value.
- Once they sign a contract with the company, it’s not easy to resign from them given the time and money invested.
- Agile approach that software companies often claim to use does not protect them from low-quality product and extended project deadlines.
- They are missing transparency in work environment and results – leaving involved parties in distrust.
What’s the root cause of those problems? It’s not about small things that went wrong in certain companies and that can be fixed with a change of management, mission statement, salary system or introducing agile principles. It’s the whole idea that is wrong: a hierarchic system where individuals can’t make decisions and fully focus just on what they do well, be well informed and easily get funds and materials for what they do.
Radically different approach
Is there a way to create organisations that can develop people’s potential and avoid at least part of problems mentioned above? It seems that it’s not a silver bullet solution we are looking for but the whole, radically different approach to build and run organisations. In fact, organisations have to move to the next evolutionary level. As with all evolution processes, it is not about a temporary fashion began in one company or by one bestseller playbook. The idea of the new model is already emerging in organisations all around the world and we can already see its great results. Books like Laloux’s Reinventing organizations are just describing the model, not trying to invent it.
Most organisations nowadays have one single purpose, no matter in which industry they are, what they produce or what services they offer. This purpose is making money. This is so obvious to everyone that it is rarely questioned if this is the way it should be. But their real, true purpose should, in fact, be to provide what their customers need in a great quality, rewarding employees adequately with the money those customers will pay.
Organisations in this new, radically different shape make their real purpose central to everything they do. Getting rid of financial goals, shareholders and investors allow those organisations to focus on what they actually do.
It is commonly believed that for every few people that bring actual value for the customer – produce, provide services – there is a person that is paid just to look over them and organise their work. In new kind of organisations, self-organising will be the key. Keeping processes, management tools and managers to a minimum will limit waste, provide more time, money and energy to focus on bringing customer business value.
The idea of hierarchy assumes some people are more trustworthy to make a good job than others. Effectively, they take responsibility for others people’s job and need tools of motivation and discipline to make sure the job is done well. This brings lots of problems: the frustration of employees lower in the hierarchy and overloading few with responsibility and decision making. New kind of organisations will focus on building teams of people where everyone can be equally trusted to do a good job, giving them exactly as much responsibility as they need and can take. In such environment hierarchy is unnecessary.
Lack of transparency is a result of hierarchy. Some people are more trusted to have some important information for the organisation. There is no true reason why everyone in the organisation wouldn’t have access to information about finances, customers or future plans. Having this information allows all people in the organisation to effectively plan and spend budget. Money paid by the customer can be shared for appropriate salaries (discussed and agreed amongst all workers) and some small part of it can be used for necessary organisation costs. No money hidden.
It is commonly believed that the more important decision is to be made, the fewer people should have right to make it. It is not only creating difficulties such as time delays and decision silos. It also doesn’t prevent from making bad decisions. It is actually more likely to have good decisions if all people could make them by themselves, asking other members of an organisation for opinions and help if needed. A bad decision can be a lesson learnt, not an occasion to blame one person.
Just do it!
It’s great to try to predict how next evolutionary level of organisations would look like. It’s also very thrilling to write blog posts about it and see them being shared and read. It’s nice to dream about working one day in one of the companies of the new, better kind. But it’s not enough for us.
Both Robin and I worked in many companies. Some of those jobs were great, some dreadful. Some projects went very well, some really poorly. But we both had one feeling all the time: there’s something fundamentally wrong about the current model of organisations and there must be some better way of doing it. And we believe there is. And now, instead of waiting for this new kind of companies to emerge, we decided to create one.
Noordwind is a software company that will work as a non-profit cooperative. We want customers to clearly know what they’re paying for (and that will be just the job we do – no hidden costs). We want all members to benefit from as much money as the customer pays. We want to focus on creating great software and delivering the best possible business value to the customer. As little as that. And as much as that.
Want to learn more details? Read our next posts about a radically different organisation that we’re creating. Or even more, don’t wait and become a part of it. Or just ask questions, criticise, and learn more. It’s something big.