No CEO: Swedish company trial running without a boss

No CEO: Swedish company trial running without a boss

We regularly scrutinise best practise for managers. Should more bosses show their employees gratification like PepsiCo’s CEO? Do workers want a boss that’s more passionate or more hard-working? Do employees even want a boss?

Swedish software consultancy Crisp decided that, in answer to the latter, they felt they didn’t need a CEO to oversee their company decisions – BBC reports.

After trialling more traditional employment hierarchies, including having a single CEO and an annual vote on who that CEO should be, Crisp staff found that having no boss worked best for them; a decision taken three years ago and still in place.

By sharing the usual responsibilities of a CEO amongst other employees, Crisp staffers decided to retire the role.

Instead of strategic decisions being taken by a Board, four-day meetings for all staff are held two to three times a year. Company-wide strategy is discussed at these meetings.

At other times, workers are encouraged to make decisions for themselves.

Though the company does have a Board – a legal requirement – it is only used as a last resort to resolve issues if something is not working.

Henrik Kniberg, an organisational coach at the firm, argues that, as staff are in charge of their own workloads, they are more motivated – with staff satisfaction measured at 4.1 out of five.

Speaking to the BBC, Kniberg said that not having to ask a boss for decisions on projects, or budgets, means the firm can respond faster.

"If you want to get something done, you stand up and start driving that," he says.

Yet Mr Kniberg stresses that not having to ask permission does not remove the need for staff to discuss issues or bounce ideas off each other. 

However, the Founder of online file-sharing service Dropbox, Drew Houston, does not believe a leaderless structure can work in larger firms.

"Often infinite freedom like that can be pretty disorientating. It doesn't always feel good, because you no longer know what you're supposed to do, what's important and you're bumping up against other people," Houston told the BBC.

Crisp’s move may seem unsusual but other companies have trialled the arrangement. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer owned by Amazon, experimented working without a CEO.

However, a fifth of employees subsequently left. Many cited ‘self-management’ as not for them.

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