I read this piece on the BBC website about a video games developer, Valve, who seemed to have dispensed with every notional idea we might hold of what an organisation should look like; crucially, they don’t have any line managers.
It’s worth a read because despite the headline grabbing angle, many of the practicalities of what is happening within this company, could be adopted by many more organisations.
Firstly, employees gravitate to what they’re interested in; groups coalesce and disperse according to the projects on the go – in many instances, they physically move to where they want to go to do this work; the furniture is all movable on wheels, so ‘have desk, will travel’ seems to be the order of the day.
Underlying this is a simple premise; people give of their best when they are interested and engaged in their work, and the team around them. Any organisation should be harnessing such energy and finding ways to place people where they will contribute their best thinking and work.
The second idea is that of peer-moderation; in the absence of line managers, how is performance assessed? Everyone provides feedback on everyone’s contribution & impact, not just their achievements & technical competence, but their behaviour & the values they embody too.
Again, any organisation can bring peer feedback into play and have it focus not just on what someone achieves but in how they go about their work and impact on the morale of the team around them.
Finally, at the heart of all of this, and something which any business should focus on irrespective of structure or hierarchy, was conversation; open, honest, regular dialogue between people striving to achieve the same aim.
It’s this final point that made me think that this wasn’t, at is may first appear, be about revolution, but rather evolution; a recognition of how growing a respectful community of people, clear in their aim, guided by values, collectively engaged and talking to one another is the core to success.