Monday, 5 march 2018 | Redacción CEU
In the collective imaginary, managers always appear as the ships' captains. The ones who are expected to guide the ships until their arrival to the ports. Their crew has rely on their good judgment and trust them so the boat does not wreck. But, can a ship find their harbor without the captain's command? That is the premise from which models like adhocracy or holocracy starts. Are these methodologies effective? Can employees work well without the manager's direction? Is the workers' self-government a viable alternative?
Eight out of ten Spaniards do not feel valued at their job. It is precisely women between 25 and 54 who identify more with this situation. According to the report of the Recognition Index in Spain carried out by Amstel, 80% of managers focus more on highlighting the mistakes of workers than on recognizing their possible good choices. It is not surprising that in this scenario of lack of recognition many fantasize with the idea of that managing without high positions in their company can have an effect on the improvement of the employees' self-esteem and the push in their motivation and efficiency. But, is a work environment possible without the presence of a leader who takes the lead?
Adhocracy, holocracy and other ships without captains
In 1968, Warren Bennis coined a new term in his book The temporary society to name a new model absented from a formal hierarchical structure: the adhocracy. This term has its origin in the Greek words "ah hoc", something suitable and arranged for a particular purpose, and "kratos", that means system. The adhocracy is a work philosophy where the key is the adaptation to the circumstances at every moment, without the mediation of intermediaries and leaving aside the bureaucracy, in fact, it is considered a model that was born in opposition to it. According to this current, all the members of the organization have the effective capacity to make decisions and act according to them and, in this way, to decide the direction that the company takes.
Another modern concept that also comes out from a management philosophy based on a structure without hierarchies is the holocracy. Brian Robertson, founder of the company Ternary Software, was the one who coined the term in 2007 and who, in turn, experimented with this type of organizational system where the hierarchy is distributed in self-organized teams with authority, known as circles, in those ones, the employees have autonomy, play continually reviewed roles and are co-responsible for work decisions. These circles are connected to each other to align and work to achieve the same goals. With this work methodology, the structure goes from being pyramidal to horizontal.
These models have evolved over time and have been reflected in different experiences such as the ones from companies like Valve, Zappos, Morning Star, Vincit, GitHub, Semco or Medium. In some cases these models have been a success, in others, the companies or their workers have ended up abandoning the "boat", sinking or taking another course. Horizontal hierarchy models are risky, innovative and disruptive, therefore, both their detractors and their enthusiasts are many. Among their advantages, the experts highlight the staff high motivation, the system transparency, the readjustment capacity according to the circumstances, the performance increase, the innovation and creativity, the exchange of information and good communication, the democratization in the decision-making, the collaboration or the impulse of the entrepreneurial spirit of the employees. Among their disadvantage, these experts also point out the extra effort and time that is invested in the coordination within these systems, the change of mentality needed in employees in issues such as their job projection, the long periods of adaptation that require the adoption of this model or that is not an option that fits in all areas or work environments.