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Holawhat? Meet The Alt-Management System Holacracy Invented By A Programmer And Used By Zappos

Holacracy Holawhat Meet The Alt Management System Invented By A Programmer And Used By Zappos Fast Company Business Innovation


Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh offered his nearly 4,000 employees an ultimatum last week: accept Holacracy or leave.

While the word may conjur images of a new-age cult, Holacracy is an alternative organizational structure that has been adopted by companies around the world—including Medium, the alt-publishing platform from Twitter cofounder Ev Williams, and the David Allen Company, the productivity consultants. It sheds traditional hierarchies for self-governing teams that get work done through tactical meetings. Zappos is the largest company to have adopted the system, and the transition hasn't been entirely smooth. By multiple reports and now an admission in an internal memo, first posted by Quartz and obtained by Fast Company, people don't love the idea of relinquishing their manager titles.

Nevertheless, Hsieh is anxious to fully embrace Holacracy, and is going all-in on the new structure by offering three months severance to people who don't want to adapt. "We've been operating partially under Holacracy and partially under the legacy management hierarchy in parallel for over a year now," Hsieh writes in the memo. "Having one foot in one world while having the other foot in the other world has slowed down our transformation towards self-management and self-organization."

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4000 employees and NO managers? That really doesn't sound like something that could work.

And guess what allowed a major gender bias issue to develop? I mean, I'm a man so I'm 100% comfortable with the idea of a management theory based on movies about street gangs -- Warriors... come out to play... [tapping bottles on my fingers] -- but I kind of suspect that without someone to take ownership of bad habits, they just get worse. Bosses get paid (hopefully) to tell their team members stuff they don't want to hear like "You are a disgusting sexist and we are hiring a woman on the team ASAP". Like it or not, peers do NOT get paid for that.

The first thing that came to mind when I heard of this management theory was Lord of the Flies.

There was evidence of GitHub developing a gender bias but they're working on fixing that.

Is there any evidence that Zappos has developed a gender bias?

14% of the employees took the severance rather than self-manage:

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