A Company without management

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Can you imagine running a sizable company without management? Can you imagine this is not fancy software company but a company producing half of US  tomato paste? Can you imagine that this company can - by the virtue of not having management - cut its fixed cost to the point it is crucially more profitable than its competitors? Chris Rufer could and what he invented is one of the most fascinating organizations on earth. It is called Morningstar, after the passage of Henry David Thoreau's Walden: “Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”  

morningstarMe and my colleague Sofi Kurki met a representative of this company yesterday a hundred mile east from San Francisco, in the middle of tomato country. Doug Kirkpatrick has seen this miracle taking shape from past decades to its present stage. We spent fascinating hours with him hearing a story which is almost too good to be true. Yes, an industrial company with 400 people can be run without industrial order.

Mind you, this is nothing to do with empowerment. There are no employees to give power because there are no employees, just colleagues. No one has a veto, not even CEO/founder. Everybody follows strictly two rules, and no more: 1) you don't use any coercive force on other people.  2) you keep your commitments. Everything people do in this company gears around these two principles.

Now what is perhaps the most fascinating part of this organization is that these are the principles we follow intuitively in our private lives. In other words, they represent thoroughly human ways of running things. How come then that we do not take these principles into our professional lives, into organizations, economies and societies?

I know the answer. It is because we have have 200 hundred year tradition of building industrial hierarchies. We are just following the old suit.

But things are changing now. There is whole new movement arising.  A paradigm shift en force. It says enough is enough, we are grown up and we should organize ourselves accordingly. And not like in Kindergarten.

In Finland, we have been investigating Reaktor, the software technology and design company.  In a fascinating and powerful way, they have too reinvented organization as we know it and led the way towards more human-focused organization.  On the way, they have become the most attractive company for creative minds. In Netherlands,  a health care company Buurtzorg has ignited a revolution by simply assuming that people do better job if they are let to focus on their customers.

In the coming years, we are going to see more if this happening. Why I believe so? It is because it is up to human nature to find better solutions to existing problems. And because now, for first time in human history, we are entering the age of transparency. As information is available and communication possible, a true mind shift is possible.

We just need the courage to follow what we feel and see right. This is what these prime examples of human-centred organizations teach us.

And remember: future never confines us, it is always open.