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Who’s the Boss? There Isn’t One

The Workplace Wonderland

Free coffee, massages and laundry service at work. It sounds too good to be true, but a workplace wonderland like this does exist. A major video game developer in Bellevue, Washington called Valve Corporation provides all these luxuries to their employees. To add a cherry on top, they also have no bosses. Author Rachel Silverman, discusses the growing trend of flat hierarchy in this Wall Street Journal article.

Why the Move?

Why are companies moving to flat hierarchy? For one, flat organization structure eliminates the layers of middle management, part of the cause of slow productivity and bottlenecks.  As Silverman quotes, the bossless environment helps “motivate employees and makes them more flexible, even if it means that some tasks, such as decision-making and hiring, can take a while.” Flat hierarchy, although appealing, is not for everyone. Silverman says that to make a boss-free environment work, it is important to hire highly motivated workers. Without the presence of managers, it can be hard to detect the poor performers.

Learning from Others

Valve allows its employees to pick projects that they think are worthwhile and want to work on. Github, a collaboration software development company, also practices this as employees have the power to be where they are most useful, mentions Github CEO Chris Wanstrath. In addition, Valve employees rank their peers and suggest how much pay each should get. Valve employees can also take part in hiring decisions. Other companies, such as W.L. Gore, say that the “flat management structure has helped the company stay innovative, because ideas can come from anyone in the organization, regardless of tenure or position.” Silverman notes:

One study, by researchers at the University of Iowa and Texas A&M University, found that teams of factory workers who supervised themselves tended to outperform workers in more traditional hierarchies, so long as team members got along well. “The teams take over most of the management function themselves,” says co-author Stephen Courtright. “They work with each other, they encourage and support each other, and they coordinate with outside teams. They collectively perform the role of a good manager.”

Read the full article here: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303379204577474953586383604

About Gavin Martin

Information systems architect / technical design authority with over 20 years experience delivering small-scale through enterprise systems to commercial, finance and government customers.

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