Is life without a boss a utopia?

 What is the common denominator between Mark Vletter at and Ruben Timmerman at Both have set up a company that functions without bosses. They have found the key to operate at large scale, with a system based on peer relationship, without the need for either hierarchy or consensus. They have enable organizations to self-organized.

Self-organization is one of the key pillars of liberation for organizations that favor happy and engaged employees. Utopia some would say. Not really. It has been around in other sectors for as far as one can remember.Take nature for instance. A forest, being a very complex ecosystem, is based on interaction amongst its constituents to ensure long term sustainability.  Similar developments have taken place in the internet world with self-organized networks of objects (so called ad-hoc networks). These examples are there to remind us that to deal with complexity, many implement self-organization to react more efficiently and with more impact. Similar conclusions apply to the world of organization.

Today, a number of organizations like Voys or Springest are pioneering advanced forms of self-organization. In the Netherlands, Buurtzorg is another example. Buurtzorg was founded in 2006 by Jos de Blok and a small team of professional nurses who were dissatisfied with the delivery of health care by traditional home care organizations in the Netherlands. Together they decided to create a new model of patient-centered care focused on facilitating and maintaining independence and autonomy for the individual for as long as possible. What started as a team of 4 nurses in 2006, has grown to nearly 8,000 nurses in 2014, with teams in the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan and now, the United States. Essentially, the program empowers nurses deliver all the care that patients need.

The main difference compared to few years back is the availability of documented implementations and practices in terms of self-organization. It allows professionals to go beyond the iconic case study and start implementing it themselves. Operating systems of self-organization like Holacracy are being implemented worldwide and facilitate the embedding of self-organization principles. Organizations are also providing to the public their own practices like Voys with the Voys manual. Ultimately it provides enough evidences of success to popularize self-organization in the workspace.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *