steven bakker new-black-ondernemerschap-leiderschap-werknemers holacracy organisatiestructuur

Meet the Bearded Dragon named Api, the CEO of New Black. This lizard has been in charge of this tech startup in Almere since its start. This unusual situation typifies how New Black co-founder Steven Bakker looks at conventional business premises. Steven has been averse to titles and hollow job descriptions all his life. 

Steven founded and led many companies. After many years and hundreds of employees, Steven began to discover a fixed pattern. “As soon as people start to work, something changes and they start to work as a worker. All human baggage and curiosity is left behind at the cloakroom when they arrive, and as soon as people go to work, they step into their jobs and carry out only what the job description requires of them. At the end of the day people go home and from that moment on they start real doing business again.

At home, they arrange mortgages are being arranged, book round trips to distant countries and administer the local tennis club.

Here I see independence and talents that I did not see on the work floor. This happens in Retail on a large scale, with shop employees. This has always surprised me.

I am convinced that this is caused by managers and hierarchies. Traditional business facilities make people stupid and task-oriented. ”

steven bakker new-black-ondernemerschap-leiderschap-werknemers holacracy organisatiestructuur

Steven Bakker

A flat organization is not enough

“As a former owner of a retail company like Dixons, I thought to stir up the entrepreneurial spirit among people by taking managers away from the organizational structure. But this was not enough. To get real change, I needed a mind-set shift. I expected that by removing a layer of management, people would become freer and grow enormously. Nothing was less true. Even in the absence of the manager, the backpack full of talents and the urge to learn and grow hardly came within the walls of the company.

It took a while before I realized how entrenched hierarchical thinking is. Behavior and patterns do not change quickly. Classical forms of task-oriented management or Taylorism – dividing work into small pieces and exercising strong control over this – have been accepted as normal for over a hundred years. Even without a “boss”, people are conditioned to be docile employees. In a role, with tasks, powers and responsibilities. Individuals determining their own priorities and managing themselves has been seen as something exotic. Even the most talented individuals experienced self-management as counter-intuitive. And we found that removing the manager’s yoke, even partially, had the opposite effect. In practice, employees were not only conditioned, but also very insecure. They were burdened with the fear of resignation when they make mistakes. They were too afraid of not doing well. As a result, they opted for safety by expressly following instructions.”

Just having goals does not activate people into leadership

“It really took me some time to develop a strategy where I could free people from the way they’ve been working for more than a hundred years, within a hierarchical management structure. After clearing the management layers, I started to implement clear KPI’s, wide and deep within the organization with the aim to provide people with certainty, by making it measurable how exactly the team and individuals could contribute to the desired economic result. But this “replacement clarity” was also not enough. “

new-black-ondernemerschap-leiderschap-werknemers holacracy organisatiestructuur

Holacracy® provides structure and tools

“My new startup, New Black, began using Holacracy more than six months ago. The Holacracy framework provides structure for self-organization. Now, a few months later, I am convinced that Holacracy, with its definition of roles, goals and responsibilities, has been the missing link. The specific meeting structure helps. People dare to act now, unless it is explicitly forbidden. A completely reversed world!
Holacracy offers systematic tools for people to develop. Within Holacracy, individuals have suddenly become like Ferraris. They can suddenly do business at the pace that suits them and go fast. “You are a Ferrari” is a slogan that we use internally several times a day. What it means to us is “You decide yourself what is good for the organization and go for it. You are the expert. You are the executor and you are the final boss of your role.”.

I don’t say that everything is perfect and certainly not everything goes without encountering obstacles, but we clearly have a framework and tools that offer structure as an alternative to the obsolete hierarchical control model. With Holacracy, we offer the safety within which you are encouraged to keep your backpack of talents and use the contents.”

‘You are a Ferrari’ is a slogan that we use internally several times a day. What it means to us is ‘You decide yourself what is good for the organization and go for it. You are the expert. You are the executor and you are the final boss of your role’
– Steven Bakker, New Black

How rules and structure are liberating

diederick janse holacracy expert new-black-ondernemerschap-leiderschap-werknemers holacracy organisatiestructuur

Diederick Janse

Diederick Janse is a self-organization professional and Holacracy expert. He assisted New Black in its first steps with Holacracy. He explains why the rules should not deter you.

“Many people see any form of structure as restrictive, or the opposite, as liberating, and those are both true: by restricting certain behavior, structure frees different behaviors. Let’s compare this with road lines: because they restrict us in where we are allowed to drive, we become liberated to rush past each other at high speed, which is what Holacracy offers: the minimal structure and rules of the game make it possible for you to accelerate in your roles.”

The right people already have the right mindset

“At New Black we work a lot with developers, both internally and externally. The developers had to consciously put time and energy into learning Holacracy. Often they would prefer to “just” program and each meeting is actually one meeting too much. The added value of Holacracy was therefore not immediately seen. Currently, I am really happy that the penny has dropped. Now these people are the most driven Holacracy practitioners. I had secretly hoped that the implementation of Holacracy would go faster and easier. I suspect this is my own healthy laziness. ”

“Within New Black we have a selection of criteria for new employees. We try to select talented people with above-average talent in certain areas and the right New Black DNA. A large degree of independence is part of this. Individuals with this set of characteristics will flourish within a Holacracy-run organization.

We even notice that our applicants, as well as colleagues, are extra motivated because we work with Holacracy. We experience this as a plus, in line with the type of people we are looking for.”

new-black-ondernemerschap-leiderschap-werknemers holacracy organisatiestructuur

That is what Holacracy offers: the minimal structure and rules of the game make it possible for you to accelerate in your roles.
– Diederick Janse

new-black-ondernemerschap-leiderschap-werknemers holacracy organisatiestructuur

An unexpected boost for team spirit

“What I did not expect to happen is for difficult subjects to be discussed more often because of Holacracy. This creates a much more open culture, a big benefit! Teambuilding really gets a boost because annoyances, including non-work-related irritations, are shared much earlier. As a team we can now prevent things from escalating. In addition, we are even able to nip a lot of politics in the bud.

The tensions we feel are often very intuitive. Holacracy offers security and assurance to make latent irritations and bottlenecks quick and easy to discuss. This varies from simple things like cleaning dirty dishes to discussing issues such as racism and sexism.

I am convinced that our culture would never have become so mature without Holacracy. I thought we were already a very open, flat and transparent organization. But when I now see what discussions have become possible, I realize that before I was awake but not aware.

We are only at the beginning. Holacracy has even more potential when I look at the growth curve of our people, the team and myself. Our adventure has only just begun.”

I am convinced that our culture would never have become so mature without Holacracy. I thought we were already a very open, flat and transparent organization. But when I now see what discussions have become possible, I realize that before I was awake but not aware.
– Steven Bakker, New Black

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new-black-ondernemerschap-leiderschap-werknemers holacracy organisatiestructuur

Send me the Holacracy rules (short + Dutch)

Holacracy rules of the game (short version + NL)

Author

Paula Nordhauzen
Energizing Marketing and Events roles at Energized.org.

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