Our dream of a different way of organizing
It has been seven years since we launched The Rookie Minds. And like Martin Luther King, we too started with a dream. Unlike King, this dream was not about the ideal we want to achieve. Our dream was about getting there: about a different way of organizing, a different way of working and a different way of thinking.
For me, this dream was not directly inspired by a passion for making a difference, but rather by a personal quest. In my time as director-owner of a medium-sized company, I regularly asked myself what the use was of what I was doing most of my time: managing and unburdening professionals – mature people who are perfectly capable of making their own decisions and choices outside working hours. This reflection led to the question: “Wouldn’t I be able to spend a lot more time on the things that I personally find important and that give me energy by organizing my company differently?
In 2015, Conrad Faber and I joined forces. The plan was to build a new organization, from scratch. One in which people are central and they are treated as independent adults. But what does such an organization look like? That was the big challenge that lay ahead of us and we had no answers in advance. After a lot of research, we became more and more convinced that a structure of self-organization could offer the solution. And how do you find out whether something like this actually works in practice? By trying it out! Our journey took place in three stages:
1. A different way of organizing
In order not to have to reinvent everything ourselves, we opted for an existing organizational model. By using Holacracy, we were able to speed up and design our structure in a relatively short period of time. We flattened the well-known hierarchical pyramid and opted for a structure of autonomous roles. The next step was to make agreements on the method of consultation and decision-making. As this was mostly a technical exercise, we experienced the implementation as relatively easy.
2. A different way of working
Everyone is afflicted with old habits. When you start working in a different way, you take these experiences with you. Unlearning and relearning is by far the most difficult step there is. The danger of falling back on old knowledge and skills, was and is constantly lurking. For example, asking for permission is deeply embedded in our genes. In order to prevent the pyramid from being reinstated step by step, it is crucial to continuously rebound asking permission. In addition, equality is an important component in our way of working. The person who facilitates consultation and decision-making plays a very important role in this. Only if the process agreements that have been made in this regard are properly followed, you will achieve that safe environment in which everyone is heard.
3. A different way of thinking
If you are organized differently and start working in a different way, your mindset will change. This is where the real turning point has taken place for us. Everything that we previously took for granted, we have started to look at from a different perspective. Whether it concerns themes such as recruitment and selection, employment conditions or capital structure, step by step we questioned existing processes and procedures and gave them a completely new meaning.
It is beautiful when you have a dream because a dream inspires. It gives direction and meaning to what you do. But chasing a dream requires a good dose of guts. We dared to choose our principles, values, and ideals. We were (and are!) prepared to fight for them. Sometimes this required the courage to do something and sometimes…to leave something behind. If we had listened to all the well-intentioned advice from our surroundings, we would never have started chasing our dream. And we would never have found out if it would work!
A must-read book in relation to this blog: Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux.