maciej łebkowski Maciej Łebkowski

Why I wanted #nomanagers on my team and failed

in Professional

Last fall I wanted to get rid of teams and their managers at our IT department. I have talked about holacracy and #nomanagers. Unfortunately nobody followed through and nothing changed.

What’s #nomanagers?

Holacracy in general is a new way of looking at the company structures and how it works. It tries to find ways for creative people, superstars and high performers to be more effective; to remove artificial boundaries and made up hierarchies. And while you may read a whole lot about it I just wanted to make a little step in Docplanner’s IT dept — remove teams and their team leaders.

I had no intentions to alter the company as a whole, to evangelise other departments and tell them how to do their work. I looked at what was happening in my room and decided that we needed that kind of change. At the time we were about 10-11 developers including the head of IT, and we were divided into 4-ish teams (I say 4-ish because there was two two-person teams, so that hardly counts).

What was wrong with that setting

What values did I try to introduce

I always wanted to work in a friendly environment. I can’t imagine having managers amongst friends. There are authorities. There are responsibilities for certain tasks or areas. But there is no artificial hierarchy. Naturally this was my goal here too.

What would change?

I proposed that I would step down as a team leader with the following effects:

Unfortunately after I talked to my superior about this, the only conclusion coming out of this was that I needed to continue to oversee my teams projects statuses and summarise them at the end of the quarter. It seems like my arguments didn’t fall through.

Current status

So nothing really changed in the last year. At least not with alignment to my proposals. We have one more two person team… In fact we have three two person teams now. And that means that we have more managers than workers. We are yet to figure out our managing culture, but already promoting new managers — out of necessity, politics, personal deals or other reasons, but for sure not basing on authority or wisdom. We didn’t solve our long lasting problems. We didn’t even acknowledge them and now we’re introducing a new generation into the process.

And this leads to conflicts. Team leaders aren’t associated with authority any more — and if someone had little authority as a software engineer, they would most certainly lose all of it as a manager. In the end nothing is gained, but our professional culture is deteriorating. It kinda sucks.

Followup

Maybe I’m tired of running teams and this time it just doesn’t cut it for me. I personally don’t mind who's „in charge” and I’m currently trying to work with everyone across the board based on their merit. I try to act as if there were no teams and no one to lead them. I just hope that the new politics wouldn’t get in my way.

I’m planning to write more on software engineering culture I’m trying to build around me. I have a few topics in mind, for example I’d like to share more about my point of view on so-called A-players or high performers. In the meantime, here are some articles about #nomanagers at other companies:

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