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6 do’s and don’ts for starting a self-managing organisation

Well over a year ago, Hartger Ruijs started to transform his company Computest (120 employees) in to a self-managing organisation. Today he shares his first lessons. ‘Accept that people say farewell’.

The process towards a self-managing organisation has been running since June last year. Sometimes things may seem like a good plan in advance, but turn out totally different from what you had expected. Other elements, on the other hand, are no problem and show that we are on the right track.

Although we are still far from our goal, here are the first lessons, or do’s and don’ts, I’d like to share, for creating a self-managing organisation.

  1. Do not start with a pilot 

This sounds like contradictory advice. Most projects start with a pilot, to prove that the concept works. In a process such as this one, you may find yourself in a hybrid situation, where people, who have nothing to do with the pilot, are just sitting and waiting to start. That causes anxiety.

Now I realise that we started with the pilot, mostly to convince others. Had we started all together at the same time, probably a few learnings would have come forward, that we could have benefit from in an earlier stage. This also reduces the delay in the entire process.

  1. When setting up your teams, also pay attention to the group dynamics.  

When setting up the teams, we mainly looked at the customers in the different portfolios and the knowledge of the colleagues. In order to have a team function well, and to ensure that people are happy with what they are doing within the group, the dynamics between people is also important. We could have taken more time for this at the start.

  1. Accept that people say farewell

Not everyone feels comfortable in a structure and culture of a self-managing organisation or agile methodology. Therefore, be prepared that some will take the initiative to part (this example at Zappo’s is interesting in that perspective). In other cases it soon becomes painfully obvious that people do not fit into the new structure.

  1. Be aware that only a few systems are yet supporting this methodology

Giving all teams access to the same systems and information (without losing all your money on licences), is an exceptional challenge. From a supplier’s point of view, most attention still goes to roles and associated rights. If you try to explain what you want, you notice that this way of working is far from common.

It may be difficult to make team activities comprehensible, without getting stuck in time-consuming administrative processes. In order to support our agile way of working, we use Jira, which is a kind of to-do list across all teams. That’s working perfectly.

  1. Do not underestimate the importance that people attach to a function

‘Renaming’ a CTO Performance to a Performance Coach or your Sales Manager to Sales Coach, you shouldn’t be surprised if people are reluctant to accept that. Employees prefer clarity and status, and it’s a lot easier to tell people on a birthday that you are a Sales Manager with a team of 10 people, than to explain what a Sales Coach does, who is not actuating anyone directly.

  1. Implement your vision in detail

A new structure does not imply that new frameworks must also be defined to work within. In that sense, company regulations are very top-down. We want to formulate this in a different way. The same applies for the assessment system and the contracts. It is not only what we expect from an employee, but also what he/she may expect from US. This directly clarifies the responsibilities both ways and you start much more as a relationship of equals.

In the coming period, we will, no doubt, learn many more lessons, which I will of course also share. I must say that I am pleased that we have made a start with this process, because; when does work make you happy? If you have the liberty of deciding what the content of your work should be, how much you work and when you work.

This model provides a lot of space to create that, which is not only good for your employees, but also your customer will notice instantly.

This article belongs to Sprout and is translated for the international community of Spaces. 

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