So Las Vegas-based Zappos has been experimenting with something it calls "holocracy," which eschews traditional management structure and replaces it with self-governing teams called "circles" that are supposed to spur innovation and lead (no pun intended) to better decisions.
Zappos is apparently imploring employees to adapt or, well, ponder leaving. According to an article in today's WAPO:
In a recent memo, which was first reported by Quartz on Thursday, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh wrote that he is offering any exit strategy to any workers who aren't sold on the unconventional idea. If they are an employee in good standing and meet certain criteria, they can leave the online retailer and get at least three months' worth of severance.So Zappos is willing to give the non-adapters in good standing an exit strategy with pay? That's nice, I guess. But what about the larger questions here: Do "boss-less" work teams really work? Are these trendy management strategies simply a big waste of time and resources? More importantly, has Mr. Hsieh ever watched an episode of Survivor?
Companies large and small need good team managers, for many reasons. For starters, who will step in to deal with the employees who like to take the credit but re-direct the blame? Who is going to discern good ideas from bad ideas, right turns from wrong turns, and keep the team motivated? Somebody has to step up to make the final decision. Autonomy on the job is nice, but the buck has to stop somewhere. When the buck stops, leadership starts.
Also -- and this is something we never talk about -- many employees have neither the personality nor the desire for leadership and are quite content to star in a supporting role at work. Hand them a task and they're off to the races, but they need some direction from a team leader. Workplaces need these employees, because they're the ones who get the work done.
Besides, if everyone on a work team wanted to be the alpha team lead, then nothing would get done and Richard Hatch wouldn't be a part of reality television history.
So call it a "holocracy" or whatever, but every "flat" team will eventually end up with a team lead of sorts to fill the leadership void. Okay, call me cynical, or simply someone who watches way too much reality television.*** But at least Honda is introducing the first car with built-in selfie cameras. Now that's progress, right?
*** In my case, The Amazing Race.