Existing practices for managing, evaluating and rewarding employees are coming under attack, and for good reason. For the most part, they do not work. Just yesterday, I wrote a blog piece, Team-Based Performance Management, urging that team performance replace individual performance as the leading barometer of achievement and discussed how such an approach could work. Coincidentally, a recent Washington Post blog piece, Zappos says goodbye to bosses, commended Zappos for doing away with the traditional manager role. It’s time to take both of these concepts seriously.
Zappos concept is spot on, but the approach Zappos is taking, known as holocracy, is far too complex for a company of significant size. Zappos is eliminating job titles and hierarchy and organizing itself around the work that needs to be done, rather than around people. This is a great concept. The details of the approach, however, where employees are grouped by circles with senior lead-links, go beyond what is really needed to make the approach work and are likely to entangle a workforce of meaningful size in a new horizontal bureaucracy which re-creates the problems of traditional management models.
A much better approach would be to organize employees around the work teams, with the norm being participation on multiple teams. Each team would have a leader for as long as the team’s work continues, in contrast to a traditional manager role. A group of professional deployment professionals would keep track of team assignments and assign employees to teams in consultation with team leaders. Just below the C-suite, a team of senior leaders would oversea the entire process, leading some important teams themselves and appointing other leaders as a group. Individual employees would not be assigned managers.
It would be apparent which employees are not performing as effective team members when leaders do not want their teams staffed with these employees. This would be the basis for asking employees to find a new position outside the company — a strikingly simple way of replacing traditional performance management.
These types of changes are a long time coming. The disconnect between team performance and individual performance management has been a problem for decades, often killing employee engagement. Now, with Millennials entering the workforce in large numbers, this departure from fundamental fairness is under severe attack prompting progressive companies like Zappos to think differently. Great concept, but let’s keep it simple.