Founding Operational Principles: Self-Management

The CEO should not be making the majority of the decisions in the business.

The next foundational operating principle  that we sat down and looked at is the idea of self-management and decentralised decision-making. 

In the context of a Swarm business model, if you are going to create this idea of autonomous teams, you have to empower the teams to comfortably make decisions. 

This is the whole principle of decentralised decision making and how we go about developing it.

Think about yourself. 

You make big decisions every day of your life, whether it’s what career you need to take, what job you  actually want to do, whether you should buy a house, get married, have babies, whatever it is. 

You make big decisions without anyone else telling you how to make these decisions.

When we look at our staff, we believe that they’re more than capable of making important decisions.  

In the traditional hierarchical structure, the management layer steps in and says, “No, wait a minute. I need to make the decision on your behalf  and you need to do what we tell you.” 

We really don’t think that this is a smart way to manage business 

When we look at the idea of an exponential culture, it actually breaks your ability to scale your business. People need  to have the freedom to make decisions within the framework of their expertise, their roles, and their responsibilities.  

As the CEO, I should not be making the majority of the decisions in the business.

I think this is an important context, because when you look at a traditional organisational structure, you have a very fixed hierarchy. Information needs to flow up and decisions need to flow down.  

We’ve all played broken telephone, where what you say winds up being completely different to what is received by the person on the other side.

Now, if  we’re able to give people agency, empower them to make decisions and manage themselves, it changes how we grow and develop. 

It also makes everyone’s life easier. 

It gives people control over their lives. You need to have freedom, responsibility, and autonomy, as we firmly believe in the principle of free will.

Manage your business based on context rather than control

How do I exercise what I think?  

How do I exercise what I believe and translate it into the work that I do every day? 

In order to make this work, we’ve taken the management layer out of the business and decided to manage our business based on context rather than control.

This is what culture is for us.

We’ve created a framework where we’ve removed the  middle management layer and built the tasks that a management layer typically has  into our FlowJo, our operating principle.

It’s our operating system that allows us to deliver and stay ahead of our competition without worrying about what they’re doing, because the bottom-line is that we are creating profound value with our customers.

By getting rid of the management layer and saying to our staff, “Manage  yourself. Manage your time. Even manage your leave.” 

If you want to go on leave, discuss it with your squad. You don’t come and discuss it with me or one of the co-founders. You go and manage it with your squad, because you’ve got to work with the people. You’ve got to ensure that you deliver and that you align to what the squads need. 

So this is what self-management is about

It’s a very, very important principle that allows us to scale, because we treat you as an adult and we believe that you’ve got the responsibility to make the right decision.

We do understand that not all decisions are equal. The more experienced you become, the greater your ability is to see a long-term impact. You’re able to discern patterns within abstract data points. 

For a junior employee, say you’ve just come out of varsity, you’ve got to develop your skills. The junior layers in the organisation are very self-directed and quite selfish, and that’s a good thing. 

You’ve got to develop your skills. You’ve got to go and deliver your capacity to build out. It’ll stand you in good stead for the future of your career, 

For a mid-tier employee it is more around your ability to manage interpersonal relationships, to manage the squads and to manage people. 

Because that’s a completely different skill that is not related to the job function that you’ve actually come to do. 

For the senior employee, the more strategically-oriented you are, because your decision making horizons actually look to a far greater distance.

This is where we look at who you are and how you manage yourself. 

Self management is a very important principle, because we know you’re adults and we’re aware that you’re more than capable of making the decisions you need to make.

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