First, Let’s Fire all the Managers

Category: People Published on Sep 29 2015

Did the title of this blog make you shudder? Or shout out “Yes!”? My response was one of curiosity. It’s actually the title of an article in the Harvard Business Review written by Gary Hamel.

I don’t know about you, but I always believed that managers were a necessary overhead expense required to keep the masses of workers motivated and on track. A skilled manager leads to improved productivity and profitability; a bad manager leads to work slow downs and high turnover. The best thing a company could do was to hire carefully and provide training in the preferred ways of getting things done in the existing company culture.


So, I was intrigued by the title of this article which is based on an actual company that has no bosses, titles or promotions. Morning Star, a food processor in CA, has created a collaborative culture based on everyone being self-managing. How do they do this?


Here are the key points:
 - Employees are driven by the company mission and self-created commitments.
 - Employees jointly forge cooperative agreements to help each other achieve their goals.
 - Employees are not limited by arbitrary titles or job descriptions.
 - Moving up and making more money is based solely on contributions and abilities.
 - Employees are provided with the numbers they need to self-evaluate the effectiveness of what they are doing.
 - Employees are provided with the tools they need as long as they are able to justify the return on investment (ROI).
 - A strong culture based on key beliefs is essential to making this model work – and not everyone fits.


In reality, everyone has the responsibility to manage every day. But no one is a manager. People work together for a greater good that is aligned with their own goals. And the money saved from not paying managers is used to increase salaries and capital investments.


This article made me stop and re-evaluate my beliefs about management and managing people. I always believed that there is a trade-off between principles based and rules based management; and between low structure and high structure. Morning Star proves that there can be a different paradigm entirely. And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see and experience it myself.