Last month I wrote about how Haier fosters innovation in large part by eliminating middle management and having a very flat organization. For those who may have thought Haier was an outlier or that this was a uniquely Chinese situation, it was recently reported that Zappos (the online shoe store owned by Amazon) is employing a similar structure.
The system, known as Holacracy, removes all job titles and managers in a corporate structure, leaving nearly every employee on equal footing. Zappos will create approximately 400 “circles” made up of a group of employees that will be tasked with projects. The group must work together, without a formal control structure, to do their jobs.
The term Holacracy is derived from the Greek word holon, which means “a whole that’s part of a greater whole.” Instead of a top-down hierarchy, there’s a flatter “holarchy” that distributes power more evenly. Rather than doing away with leadership, Holacracy actually distributes leadership to everyone. The focus though is on the work, not the individuals. It is easy to draw parallels between this philosophy and that of Haier, as Chinese culture traditionally supports the greater whole.
The success of Haier and this move by Zappos point to a greater organization shift, one less focused on politics and people and more focused on getting the most done efficiently. It is only a matter of time until this philosophy makes its way to tech and gaming companies and the early adopters are likely to see huge advantages in productivity and employee retention.