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Ever dreamed of ditching your boss? These companies did just that

A business without a boss, or even job titles, may sound as though it's destined for disaster

Several companies are testing out of the idea, with the aim of keeping staff happy, clients satisfied and boosting their bottom line.

Richard Sheridan is a manager who ditched the organisational chart after being burned during years spent working at hierarchical organisations. He started his own company in 2001 and choose not to implement a traditional office environment.

The staff at his Michigan-based custom software company Menlo Innovations work in one large open space. With two people to one computer, the 55 employees even make up their own job titles. Sheridan himself has chosen the title of chief storyteller. He believes that having a “joyful” office environment helps his company better respond to clients.

Linda Barnes, the vice president of organisational agility at Iowa-based healthcare web design company Geonetric, found that the breaking point for her was the annual review process. She felt that feedback to employees was either too influenced by recent performance or simply too slow to really make a difference.

After reading a Harvard Business Review article titled ‘First, Let’s Fire all the Managers’, which showed the costliness and inefficiency of management layers, she got rid of managers within her own company and ditched traditional departments.

Most teams within the firm are organised around projects and all teams have responsibility for their budgets and revenues, Since Barnes made these changes to the structure of her business, it has received its highest scores ever in client satisfaction surveys, whilst also enjoying record-breaking revenue.

Growing pains

When Blake Jones and his co-founders started Colorado-based Namaste Solar 10 years ago, they did so with the intention of avoiding the problems they’d faced in previous jobs. Jones said that they wanted to prove that they could do business in a different way.

Initially, employees had equal salaries, meetings were open to everyone, and employees had to agree unanimously to any decisions. However, as the solar panel company grew, those policies became untenable.

Jones said that the process of deciding on a new logo for the company was so fraught, that it was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. He said that some decisions can’t be by consensus, particularly in big companies.

Despite the challenges faced by organisations that choose to do business without a boss, it seems that the concept is gaining in popularity. Mark Young, co-founder of UK-based consultancy Future Considerations, said that this idea of challenging traditional hierarchy is beginning to resonate globally.

Young adds that even larger organisations are starting to test out the idea of decentralising decision making to smaller divisions or bringing in the principles in other ways such as open meetings.

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