According to “No Managers Required: How Zappos Ditched The Old Corporate Structure For Something New”, by the end of 2014, Zappos.com will have dismantled their corpo pyramid. Under the stewardship of maverick CEO Tony Hsieh, the 1500 employee company will be transitioned into a “holacracy” of 400, self-governing circles.
Talk about having huge cajones. Just think of the disruptive risk to business performance of making such a daring structural/operational change to a billion dollar enterprise.
Although I look forward to watching how the transformation plays out, I’m a bit skeptical that Mr. Hsieh can pull it off. After visiting the site of the “consultant” that will be advising the company during the transition (holacracy.org) and browsing through the ungodly long, complicated, formal Holacracy Constitution, the first thought that came to mind was “D’oh!“.
Twitter friend and guest blogger @serialmom sums up the situation with this insightful tweet:
I’ve been trying to figure out why I admire Zappos.com (I know, I know, they had a nasty security breach recently), Semco, and HCL Technologies so much. Since I have a burning need to understand “why“, I’ve concocted at least one reason: Tony Hsieh, Ricardo Semler, and Vineet Nayar ensure that fierce transparency is practiced within their companies and all their “initiatives” are rooted there.
Working in an environment without transparency is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the finished picture is supposed to look like. – Vineet Nayar. Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down (Kindle Location 547). Kindle Edition.
Of course, I’m making up all this transparency stuff, but hey, it reinforces my weltanschauung (<- I had to look up the spelling a-freakin-gain!). That’s what humans do to give themselves comfort. No?
On the top left, we have a recent Hugh MacCleod cartoon. On the top right, we have the cover of Seth Godin’s book, “We’re all Weird“. On the bottom center, we have the Zappos.com 10 core values. Do ya think these people are onto something?
Where are you on this scale?
One courageous reader sent me a pic with his position on the scale:
Any other takers?
In case you were wondering, Z6 stands for Zappos core value number 6:
I’m a huge Zappos fan and a VIP member (which means free overnight shipping for any purchase!). Thus, I get daily e-mails from zappos.com on special deals. The snippet you see above appeared at the bottom of one of those e-mails.
The joyful reason for this post is that Zappos is (rightfully) tenacious about promoting their 10 core values both internally and externally. CEO Tony Hsieh and his merry band truly understand how difficult it is to sustain and maintain a culture of joy and excellence – which is a pre-requisite to both financial and emotional success. Thus, with every chance they get, which includes the daily e-mail, they spread the word.
How about your company? Do you even know what their core values are, let alone “walk the talk“? Nah, an approach like Zappos’s won’t work there, right? It’s simply auto-assumed that writing down some inarguable altruisms and pontificating about them from time to time does the trick. There are more important issues to tend to, no?
Zappos.com operates on the simple principle that happy people make productive workers and productive workers make a successful enterprise. Thus, the policies and cultural accoutrements instituted at Zappos.com are thoughtfully and proactively designed to foster happiness without totally abdicating control. For Zappos.com, it’s not enough to have a “competitive” benefits and pay package – everyone (still in business) has to have one.
With that in mind, let’s explore the four quadrants in the simplistic table below. Right off the bat, we can ditch the two quadrants in the second row. After all, no org can remain viable for very long with an unproductive workforce – regardless of whether the emps are happy. No?
So that leaves us with the two quadrants in the first row. One would think that the holy grail for excellence-seeking orgs is the Productive-And-Happy (PAH) quadrant. However, a multitude of circumstantial evidence leads me to believe that most orgs are either consciously or unconsciously incompetent at catalyzing the development of a PAH workforce – regardless of what is espoused in the annual report. The legions of enterprises that fall into the CLORGs and DYSCOs category don’t even make an effort to develop “happy” employees. The SCOLs that run the show are too macho and they delude themselves into thinking that happiness doesn’t matter or it’s “not in their job description“. Should it be?
What comes first, productivity or happiness? Is one attribute a pre-requisite for attaining the other?
Zappos.com core value number 8 is: “Do more with less“. Assume that you miraculously experience an epiphany and eagerly subscribe to this noble value. Using the figure below as a reference, how would you go about increasing profits while simultaneously flattening the “Resource Consumption” trace? Can it be done in your org?
Several months ago, when I bought and read Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh‘s “Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion, and Purpose” book, I signed up for the VHP (Very Happy Person) program. I also followed the “Happiness Bus” around as it cheerfully toured the USA, spreading a little bit of happiness at every stop.
Recently, I received in the mail, unsolicited and free of charge, a cool little thank you package filled with these five goodies:
Since the care package contains a copy of the DH book signed by Mr. Happiness himself, Tony Hsieh, I’d like to try and return the favor by spreading a little happiness of my own. Therefore, I’ll send my unsigned copy gratis to the first person who indicates, via the comments section in this post, that they’d like to own it. Hell, I’ll even spring for the postage cost 🙂