Larry Page, creator of Google, recognised that a programmer “shouldn’t be supervised by a person with limited technical knowledge”.
Based on my own experience of working as an engineer for big international companies, I can say I agree with him – it's easy to feel discontent and frustration with a project leaders who has limited understanding of what you are doing.
For the same reason, when my team and I had the chance of starting our own company eight years ago, we decided to create an enterprise without bosses. Instead, all of us are programmers and engineers.
But for this mostly untested model to work out, we knew we had to put in place three principles at once, with an additional two being apparent further down the line, after weeks spent working as a team of developers.
Having an organisation without bosses can be the very best structure of an organisation, if you do it correctly. For it to work out, these are the five essential principles to follow.
1. Hire proactive people
Let’s begin with the most important point of all: for a model like this to work, everyone should be an entrepreneur at heart.
This means you should only work with other people who are proactive and productive of their own accord, without needing to be controlled or told what to do.
At our company, we are all adults who are capable of making decisions and taking responsibility for them. As Stephen R Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said: “Give people orders and you will generate dependence. Give people objectives and you will create independence.”
In our company there are clear objectives that we all know, but there aren’t defined orders and rules of “how” to reach them. Each member is responsible for working and defining their own path in a proactive way to meet that objective, such as “increasing sales using new channels”, or “implementing more effective mechanisms for customer service”.
2. Hire people who love what they do
Unfortunately, being proactive is not enough in itself, even though it’s the first requirement and the most important one.
To be able to work without bosses, there’s another quality that's non-negotiable: that a person should love their job. When we hire new programmers for our start-up, we make sure this is an integral part of their personality.
But how is it possible to tell? When it comes to programmers, we look at how passionate they are when they talk about their past achievements in work.
3. Lose "the office"
Once you have a team of proactive people who love what they do, your next task is to ensure you have a free and flexible atmosphere, which allows them to achieve their potential.
For many years, I looked with interest at the offices of Google and other Silicon Valley companies with incredible designs and endless gadgets and accessories. But I came to the conclusion that this isn't the best environment.
Based on my experience, I agree with what Matt Mullenweg, creator of WordPress, said: “The best office is NOT having one.” Our start-up works completely remotely. There are no offices. For people who are ambitious and proactive, this is the office they have always dreamed of – one that allows them to work in total freedom.
4. Get rid of meetings – they're a waste of time
This one is slightly more complicated, because it depends on the profession. But certainly for a team of developers, meetings are a nuisance.
At our organisations, we have neither face-to-face nor over-the-internet meetings any more. As programmers, we need an average of four straight hours of work to reach the best degree of productivity. I'm convinced that meetings are the worst enemy of effectively productive people.
5. Wave bye-bye to emails
Eventually, we decided to completely eliminate email communication within our company. The only way in which we still use email is in external communication with clients.
The efficiency we achieved implementing this new work policy is phenomenal. At the beginning we set out to try and work without email for just three months, and after four years of it, there's no going back.
The email has become the go-to means of communication for organisations, but when it was created in 1993 it actually wasn't intended for that purpose, and as a result it has a number of downfalls.
Instead, we use a tool we developed internally – a control panel with a list of projects the company is working on. In this way, whoever wants to voluntarily join a project is able to do so. All they have to do is log in and find out which degree of progress the project has and which contributions the project needs.