Hi all…please join me out here on this branch..careful, I don’t want you to fall as you consider just how much you’re willing to ante up at work.
There was a fascinating article in the New York Times this past Sunday about Dov Seidman, CEO of the company LRN. The mission of LRN is intriguing to HR nerds like me – helping companies “inspire principled performance in their operations”. Pretty cool, don’t you think? He has written a book (which I have not yet read) titled, “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything”. In short, he has taken his company in a surprising and challenging direction – developing a form of self-governance that boldly eliminates many of the sacred cows that few have ever dared to sacrifice. He threw out the org chart, eliminating titles (but for his). The structure is as flat as possible, with authority and decision-making viewed as part of their shared, collaborative mission. There are no titles; performance reviews for each employee are completed by a personally selected group of reviewers and a mentor. Self-evaluations include perspective on performance as well as a score. Employees are “trust[ed] to weigh the feedback they collect into their own ratings”. All of these scores are published internally. Vacation time is unlimited – presuming that people will be candid and plan their time off with an appreciation for their colleagues and the good of the organization. Management committees do exist, though my sense is that there are a very discreet few. In an effort to reflect his commitment to transparency, Seidman opened his own review for comments from anyone who wanted to offer his/her views, and published his own assessment along with all the others.
He feels that empowering employees is a hierarchical phenomenon, and fuels supervisory power rather than individual initiative and commitment. His approach is to give each employee as much ownership over their career as possible. After completing a study of companies world-wide, he acknowledges that few companies are practicing self-governance. And, he admits that the process within his own organization is far from complete, and has been “enlightening, frustrating, nerve-racking, authentic and urgent”.
There are many companies that give lip service to such ideology, and place questionable value on walking the walk defined by their mission statements. Whether you are a department head, chief officer, vice-president, king…doesn’t matter. What do you think about the pros and cons of such a daring premise? Could you do it? Would you do it? What would it take for you to step out on a limb and try something totally new to see if it flies? I am most impressed by Seidman’s efforts to be authentic in the workplace, to ensure that his personal philosophy is in sync with his professional environment and do more than shake the tree, but actually climb.