How Mayden Got Rid of the Managers
In 2013, Mayden decided to become a self-managing organisation, comprised of autonomous teams. Their three line managers had left the organisation, gone on maternity leave or moved to a new role within the organisation, so it seemed like the perfect time. But it wasn't without some teething problems at the start.
In this short video from the 2019 Happy Workplaces Conference, Alison Sturgess-Durden explains how they created the structures and processes to enable this system to be a success.
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At first, Alison and the rest of the Director's team decided not to explain about the lack of hierarchy — they thought that the culture of the organisation would do this for them. Unfortunately, this didn't work, causing confusion and for the Directors to make all of the decisions.
"We realised if you don't have the scaffolding of hierarchy, you still need scaffolding, you still need to design that structure and process," says Alison.
While there are no line managers, there are still support structures in place. Each team has a coach, who helps the team to work effectively — both within the team and with other teams.
"The Director's team is just another team alongside all the other teams. We have our own work to get on with," she says. "But at some point someone needs to decide which direction we're going in, and that's the Director's role. Then our role is to assure ourselves that the direction is being pursued and is actually being realised in the way that we imagined.
"Then finally, and mostly, it's to get out of the way, because as these sailing boats show, if you get in the way of someone's wind they're going to die; it's going to take the wind out of their sails."
Resources and related content
- 16 Companies That Don't Have Managers — It's not just Mayden that have got rid of the managers. Henry Stewart lists 16 companies that are self-managing, including Gore, Medium and Semco.
- How Buurtzorg is Delivering Great Service to Patients — Buurtzorg is probably the most well-known self-managing organisation. Based in the Netherlands, it has over 9,000 nurses who all work in self-managing teams. In this two-minute video from Happy's 2016 Transforming the Public Sector Conference, Alieke van Dijken explains how Buurtzorg operates without managers.
- Dear CEO: Let Your People Choose Their Managers — If you aren't ready to get rid of your managers just yet, why not consider letting your people choose their manager instead? Henry Stewart explains more in this letter, originally written for Thinkers50.
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