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No Bosses: The Future of the Company?

Paul Green, Jr. would normally be called an executive. But he works for a company that has gone bossless. That is to say, the only relationships at his company are lateral relationships. Formal hierarchies — executives, middle management, and associates — don’t define the “human technology” at his company, Morning Star Company.

In the video below from Voice & Exit 2013, you can hear all about this amazing organization, which operates more like a hive brain.

What are the implications of this? Could the future of the organization be to go completely bossless? Most people like the idea that they won’t be micromanaged. And yet how does the company get anything done? It turns out, Morning Star has developed a powerful set of internal protocols that mean employees are servants of the mission. The rest is a chemistry that unites people with people to get the job done. Companies like Valve Software, Zappos and Medium have adopted this model.

Wired columnist Marcus Wohlson writes:

Holacracy was developed inside an obscure Pennsylvania software startup founded by a man named Brian Robertson, but it’s slowly spreading elsewhere. The holacracy name is now a registered trademark, and Robertson has gone to create an consultant shop, HolacracyOne, that helps other companies adopt the system. In addition to Zappos, Robertson and crew have introduced holacracy to Medium, the startup created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, and Conscious Capitalism, a nonprofit founded by the CEO of Whole Foods.

Unless there is special sauce to Robertson’s model, Morning Star Company is years ahead of all these companies. And that means Paul Green, Jr.’s Self-Management Institute has had the benefit of working out the kinks over time.

If the bossless organization starts to rise, we may see a protracted struggle between the old hierarchical organizations of an older order and the new lateral organizations of a connected age. This struggle could become a bitter one. As companies start to adapt to changing conditions, some will turn to the ultimate hierarchy (government) for protection against these agile, networked companies. And in the short turn, ego and hubris may hold back the evolution of the firm. But in the long term, these self-managed organizations may prove to be smarter and more resilient.

(Paul Green, Jr. was a speaker at the 2013 Voice & Exit. Check out the 2014 speakers.)