4.4 Case study
A well-documented case study is that of online shoe retailer Zappos, which recently removed its management hierarchy and introduced the holacracy model. Their key focus was on transparency and adaptability – providing tools to help staff identify the work that needed doing, and giving staff the ability to pitch for work that interested them rather than work that was associated with an out-of-date job description.
In a Harvard Business Review IdeaCast, Bernstein and Bunch (2016) outline the significant work involved in retraining staff and putting in place the technology and structures to support the new approach. A key point is that this isn’t a ‘leaderless’ environment – leadership or management is distributed throughout the organisation.
This approach isn’t for everyone – it was widely reported that 50 employees resigned a short time after implementation, although that may have been due to poor change management. It is also what the company describes as a ‘long-game’ and the jury is still out as to whether the company will become more productive and adaptable to change as a result.
Activity 5 What do you predict?
1. Find an article, blog or paper about the future of business leadership that captures your imagination and summarise its contents in the box below.
2. Next, answer these questions:
a) How does the approach you’ve summarised compare with leadership that you’ve experienced/observed, or even your own leadership style?
b) Is it an approach that you feel could be effective in your workplace?
Cutting edge approaches like the one introduced by Zappos are still relatively unusual, and their effectiveness has yet to be measured. While a radical change may be unlikely to happen in your organisation, there may be elements of these new approaches that could inform small changes.
Use your leadership journal to identify areas that interest you and experiment with ideas.