The key ingredients of self-organisation

A while ago I wrote this post about unlimited holiday policy at A few months on, I would like to tell you about how things are working.

Along with unlimited holidays, which are still in the experimentation phase, all employees at enjoy a degree of flexibility over work hours, work location, business decisions and choice of team/project.

I have spoken to many people who:

  1. consider us mad – and say our way cannot possibly work
  2. think we are doomed
  3. think it’s a wonderful idea and wish us the best, without believing we can succeed

As you can see, there is a lot of skepticism around our work model, especially here in Italy. Just the fact that we don’t have to log in and out of the office is terrifying for some…how can we be controlled??

The truth is we don’t need to be controlled. Our work is organised around a few very simple and basic principles:

  1. trust
  2. responsibility

These seem obvious terms in a world of adults, but they are seldom heard of in the workplace. Our CEO firmly believes that seeing as he has hired adults, we should be treated like adults, so trusted and respected. In turn, every employee is expected to trust and respect colleagues. It’s actually quite obvious: trust a person and give him/her responsibility, and that person will put in a great deal of effort and deliver an optimal result.

So employees at are trusted to take holidays responsibly (which doesn’t mean not taking any – we must take at least 24 days off each year). They are trusted to make wise business decisions, to form well working teams, to talk with and find solutions for customers. They are trusted to do the work that is necessary, even if they are not in the office from 9 to 5.

Employees are in turn responsible for the company’s performance. They are responsible for getting their work done, helping colleagues, organising their week. And they are ultimately responsible for the happiness of our customers. And this is the glue that keeps the company together and working, because at we have taken things one step further:

we all understand that it is not the CEO who pays our wages, lets us have holidays and lets us have flexible working hours, but it is the customer.

The world of revolves around our customers. They are the top of the pyramid, they are the ones for whom we work and solve problems. They are the ones who make our work model possible.

By placing the customer first, ahead of everyone else, we all realise that if we want to live and do well, we have to listen to our customers and focus on their needs. Once this is in place, trust and responsibility within the company kick in and our wonderful self organisation model works beautifully.

No one takes advantage of the flexibility we have, no one takes too many holidays or does too little work. We all know that our system is based upon having happy customers, and that should our customers not be happy with our work we would not have the freedom we have, or even get paid for what we do. If someone in a team is having difficulties, it is enough to talk about it, and others help. Our system works so well because we are adults working together to provide solutions to the problems our customers have, sometimes even before the customers realise exactly where their problem is.

When you think about it, our system is really obvious and cannot fail. Every company should put its customers first, and every company should trust and respect its employees rather than controlling them and always expecting them to take advantage of any freedom or flexible approach to work. People who are trusted and respected give trust and respect in return, they do not take advantage of what they are given.

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