People thrive with some certainty and structure – as the crew at buffer.com discovered.
When Buffer first moved to a self-management model, we moved to a completely flat structure.
We just let loose and the message was “everyone go figure out what you want to do and work on, without too much guidance or leadership.” We talked about some of those challenges recently here.
In short, to describe what “flattening” an organization means exactly, here is what we did:
- Removed all managers that would help decide what someone would work on
- Stopped all 1:1’s and mentorship sessions to avoid top down interactions
- Had all previous managers step into more day-to-day roles and tasks again
- Let people pick and choose completely freely what area or project they want to get involved. The one guidance we provided was the “advice process” to be used to make good decisions for what to work on.
Within the first few months of being completely flat, slowly but surely a few things started to feel quite odd. People were easily lost, especially those that had just joined Buffer. More experienced people often didn’t quite see a place to help out and share ideas around which direction a project could take.
The way I would describe it is that the amount of freedom people had, with absolutely no guidance, expectations or accountability, was pretty overwhelming.
Read more: What We Got Wrong About Self-Management