May 11, 2006

Some pointers on no job titles

peterme readers sent in a few pointers following my last post where I asked about alternative corporate structures to encourage team coherence and creative output.

I think you'd enjoy 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins, which doesn't so much focus on organisational models as on what to do to become and stay a great company. I think the model he develops (through pretty rigorous study) maps quite well with what you have been doing so far with Adaptive Path. Collins urges a focus on hiring the right people first, and being quite uncompromising in that regard. Well, I can't really summarize the book that well, but Amazon of course a a short description that might tell you more.


From a Wikipedia entry on "libertarian socialism" and "mutualism" that references the Gore model(I had no idea...):

From this entry: "The model followed by the corporation WL Gore and Associates, inventor of Gore-Tex fabrics, is also similar to mutualism as there is no chain of command and salaries are determined collectively by the workers. It is important to note that Gore and Associates has never identified itself as anarchist."

Following on to Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, mutualists, discussed in the same paragraph, I found this reference

"Values to Work: Employee Participation Meets Market Pressures at Mondragon" by George Cheney

From the book jacket - "Values at Work is an analysis of organizational dynamics with wide-ranging implications in an age of market globalization. It looks at the challenges businesses face to maintain people-oriented work systems while remaining successful in the larger economy. George Cheney revisits the famous Mondragn worker-owned-and-governed cooperatives in the Basque Country of Spain to examine how that collection of innovative and democratic businesses is responding to the broad trend of "marketization."


In the book "In Search of Excellence", authors Tom Peters and Robert Waterman address this issue, though they don't mention Gore and Associates (Peters mentions it in "A Passion for Excellence"). In their analysis of "excellent companies" (3M, P&G, IBM, they argue against a focus on "organizational structure" as a panacea:

"Peters and Waterman make the case that shared values are the differentiating factor that
sets extraordinary companies apart from the rest. Of course they address the other attributes
of organizations such as resources, structure and people; indeed, their work began as an
attempt to uncover the next great trend in organizational structure. Early in the process
however, the authors realized that as important as the structural issues undoubtedly are...
they are only a small part of the total issue of management effectiveness. The very word
"organizing," for instance, begs the question, "Organize for what?"


I've found "Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace" to be a refreshing read on managing teams and workplaces for success. Great story.
Posted by peterme at 09:48 PM | TrackBack

May 08, 2006

No Job Titles

Adaptive Path is feeling a few growing pains, which has lead me to look around for alternative models for organizational structure that lead to successful, creative, empowered teams. I found myself returning to W.L. Gore and Associates set up, most famously reported in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point.

The best article I've found comes from Workforce Management. Called "Small Groups, Big Ideas," it discusses the strange structure at play, which includes no job titles, and no hierarchy, and the challenges such a set-up poses. Here is my favorite passage:

"It isn’t a company for everyone," Brinton says. "It takes a special kind of person to be effective here--someone who is really passionate about sharing information, as opposed to controlling it. Someone who can handle a degree of ambiguity, as opposed to ‘Here’s my job and I only do these tasks.’ Someone who’s willing to lift his or her head up from the desk and see what the business’ real needs are."

They were also the subject of a Fast Company piece a number of years back. Some choice nuggets:

"A project doesn't move forward unless people buy into it. You cultivate followership by selling yourself, articulating your ideas, and developing a reputation for seeing things through."

"It's a process of giving away ownership of the idea to people who want to contribute and be a part of it. The project won't go anywhere if you don't let people run with it."

"The idea is that employees are not accountable to the president of the company; they're accountable to their colleagues."

And they don't shy away from discussing it publicly, as Gore's corporate culture web page demonstrates.

If you know of either any deeper discussions of Gore's organizational structure, or other interesting discussions of alternative models, I'd love it if you emailed them to me. (As I still have comments turned off on this blog). Email peterme AT peterme DOT com.

Posted by peterme at 10:33 PM | TrackBack


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