“You’re not the boss of me!” Or, “Is this whole bossless thing bullshit?”

Posted by jlubans on July 22, 2014

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Vadim Liberman’s Fall, 2013 article, “Who’s in Charge Here?”, surveys and assesses self managing organizations - bossless workplacecs.
No, it’s not a soapy infomercial; rather it’s a well balanced and critical assessment of the knitty-gritty of self management. He makes effective use of Socratic counterpoints switching between the pros and cons, the lows and highs of bosslessness. Apart from his passing mention of the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, there are no other not-for-profits in his survey. Regardless, I think the article will be of use in my Democratic Workplace class. The concepts applied in the for-profit world are extractable and applicable to the not-for-profit sector, a point I try to make everytime I discuss the un-hierarchy.
Liberman’s subtitle makes a similar point for all of us working in hierarchies: “Bossless organizations can teach you how to be a better boss.” That evokes what a conducting student told me about observing Orpheus’ conductor-less rehearsals: “I learn more about conducting than from any conducting class!”

“Who’s in Charge Here?” Is divided into seven sections preceded by a lengthy introduction.
Decisions, Decisions
In It Together
Leaders Without Bosses
Avoiding Chaos
Building Pyramids
Fitting In—or Not
Peer Management

Here are a few quotes from some of these sections, including one from the introduction taken from Ricardo Semler:
“Bureaucracies are built by and for people who busy themselves proving they are necessary, especially when they suspect they aren't. All these bosses have to keep themselves occupied, and so they constantly complicate everything.”
(My experience would confirm that, perhaps more so than others. What about you?)

Decisions, Decisions
“Superpowers held by a relatively few individuals at conventional corporations are everybody's powers at (bossless) businesses: No one is a boss; everyone is a boss.”
“Richard Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations, often speaks of how his 8-year-old daughter remarked that Daddy was ‘really important’ when he brought her to work at his former company one day because people kept asking him to make decisions. ‘I realized I was a bottleneck.’”

In It Together
“In reality, while employees at bossless firms decide for themselves, they rarely decide by themselves. Often, they work in teams and solicit information and advice from many other, especially experienced, colleagues. Of course, the same happens at your company.”
“Dana Ardi says, is that ‘this isn't about creating a democracy—it's about democratization of the process. You don't always need consensus. You need consideration.’”

Leaders Without Bosses
“Nevertheless, some critics worry that it's not high school that a bossless workplace risks resembling but Lord of the Flies.”

Avoiding Chaos
Valve’s CEO, as depicted in the Valve Employee Handbook: “'Gabe Newell—Of all the people at this company who aren't your boss, Gabe is the MOST not your boss, if you get what we're saying.' You get it: Newell isn't but kind of is but not really but sort of is boss, but let's be real—only a boss can declare that he isn't a boss.”
“’If you're a big company, you don't blow up all the bosses.’”
“In other words, trust your people so they trust you. Your company may not go bossless, but you can still boss less.”

Peer Management
“The Morning Star organization struggles to ensure that co-workers don't dodge giving negative feedback. “It probably happens less often than it should,” he says—just like at your own company.”

Leading from the Middle Library of the week: Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Hillsboro, Oregon, USA.

@Copyright John Lubans 2014

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Comments

Posted by Miriam Holley on July 22, 2014  •  14:58:35

Looks like a good read...and right up your alley John...It makes me think that maybe you aren't the only person in the position to understand this concept..you should ask this guy to come to your class...xxoo

Posted by Miriam Holley on July 22, 2014  •  15:00:59

my name tag says...
HELLO...
MY NAME IS

TROUBLE

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