Zappos moves to UNBOSS

Zappos – the legendary Las Vegas based retailer – takes a bold move: Bosses will go, the corporate hierarchy is out and titles are obsolete. The conventional chain of command will be substituted by a number of overlapping and self-governing “circles” with the intention to empower employees and avoid that the company becomes bureaucratic as it grows beyond today’s 1500 people.

Have you heard this before? Yes, it is UNBOSS. Zappos calls it “holacracy” and the idea is to organize work around what needs to be done instead of who should do it. Employees are assigned several roles and usually belong to more than one circle. John Bunch who is leading the transition at Zappos, notes that the change decouples the professional side of business from what he calls “the technical getting-the-job-done side”.

I am not surprised. Once companies grow, hierarchies become bureaucracies and flexibility and innovation dies. Look at any big organization you know. They are all the same!

Zappos has introduced the key aspects of UNBOSS: It has a clear purpose (excellent customer service), it engages stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers) as partners and it now introduces the UNBOSS knowledge-based organizational model. The whole thing is based on a strong set of values. Welcome on board and congratulations!

Share your thoughts including other great UNBOSS case stories. Write a comment!

4 kommentarer til “Zappos moves to UNBOSS”

  1. Frank Calberg

    Great posting. An additional input: In this posting by Polly Labarre, there’s an interesting video in which Gary Hamel touches upon aspects related to the topic.

  2. Lars Kolind

    Thank you Frank; Gary Hamel is a great proponent for this type of company. Polly LaBarre visited Oticon and did a four-page interview with me in Fast Company right after the Oticon Revolution. She was excited and later referred to Oticon over and over again.

  3. Frank Calberg

    Reflecting a little more on the posting and on the article to which a link is posted, I’m curious to know more about how you will handle resistance to change among people who want to keep things as they are, for example hold on to prescribed hierarchies and centralized power for decision making? In this regard, it would be interesting to know more about why some people resist change? What experiences do you have, all of you? Thanks very much in advance – I appreciate it.

  4. Lars Frisk Rossen

    What a great achievement to have won over such an interesting company, Lars. That is truely well done!
    Especially in America with powerdistance being what it is: Massive compared to your own neck of the woods.

    I have often wondered whether unboss really offer anything unique other than common sense? Which by the way often is quite unique in an overly comlex and made-complicated world.

    This article describing how Zappos radically let managers go is different and unique. Looking at my former employer LEGO I do see some of the same principles applied yet only at the very top of the organization and they are a proven success.

    However I do see a flipside to Unboss, Zappos and the LEGO top management team. Unbossing requires a stronger employee in general. Pier pressure self-leadership and stress management are just a few of the topics that come up. I meet it every day with my clients. And they are not unbossed.

    What’s your perspective on making unboss work without it becoming the law of the jungle scenario?

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