Is it possible to run a company without hierarchy?
People are fed up of their bosses. I am not surprised that my colleague Sergio Fernández’s book “Vivir sin Jefe” (“Living without a boss”) is constantly being reedited. Is it possible to live in a corporate structure without a hierarchy? “Common sense” says no. On many occasions, innovation dares to go beyond apparent limits.
Is there any company without a hierarchy? It seems so. Gary Hamel tells about it in his great book, “Lo que ahora importa” (“What matters now”) (Deusto), recently published in Spain. W. L. Gore, Morning Star or Whole Foods Market are companies that, at least, have gone beyond the well-known organization charts and the traditional way of organizing a company. Unbelievable but true. The WFM founder, for instance, has always said that his aim was to have a company based on trust rather than fear. In W. L. Gore, workers are also shareholders in the company. The organization processes are based on team leaders, who have to gain people’s trust. Except for a General Coordinator, there are no hierarchies in W. L. Gore, one of the most successful companies in the world (decades after decades without a single dollar loss).
Many people think that only one or two examples may not be significant. However, science rejects a hypothesis only when there is a simple refutation argument. refutación. If only one stone floated instead of falling down, it would be enough to reconsider the gravity theory. So, why don’t we do the same to run a company? If only one company successfully challenges the hierarchy, why don’t we do the same? We should try at least to go beyond the vast bureaucracy network, hierarchy, and taifa kingdoms that characterize 98% of companies.
If we want to be innovative, we should reinvent management and substitute control theory for passion theory once and for all. Who likes working in boring, threatening, routine environments, which do not promote initiatives? With paternalistic, omniscient and even authoritarian bosses? With fixed timetables and ridiculous ties? In grey offices with a cheap scented air freshener? Who likes that?