Imagine, you’re entering an old office building. From the outside a historic building, on the inside, it wasn’t all that pretty anymore. After you entered the building, you see lots of colours, a suspended ceiling, and a counter. If you walk up the stairs onto the next floor, you see nothing more than desks and monitors. Nothing is showing the exceptional culture of the company that was located here. Enrise is a Dutch IT company with more than 50 employees, located in Amersfoort. It is a completely self-managed organization with a remarkable culture. The company name Enrise means: ‘Take (someone or something) to greater heights. It says it all.
Last month we visited Enrise for a Responsive Org meetup. We visited their new office where they recently moved into. And they did that completely without managers because they don’t have any. During the meetup, Martijn van de Polder, designer and marketeer at Enrise, shared their story and learnings. Here are the 5 takeaways we’ve learned from his talk.
How to move a self-managed organization
1. Create dedicated taskforces
For every step in the process, Enrise created dedicated taskforces for different stages of the process. The taskforces must have a representative from every team so that everyone’s opinion is represented. The taskforces have a clear scope. By scoping the taskforces, everyone can decide to add his/her contribution to another part of the process. The stages:
- Selecting an office: Deciding whether to stay and upgrade, or move to another office (and which). After the decision, the taskforce was discontinued.
- Office move: Handling the actual move, including managing the contractor. When Enrise moved into the new office, the taskforce was discontinued, and the next one started.
- Office completion: This taskforce is responsible for the finishing touch of the office and is not terminated yet, because they just moved.
2. Set up integrated decision making
Although the taskforces are a representation of the whole organization, on crucial moments, they wanted to decide with everyone (or at least, as much as possible). Deciding with 50 employees can be hard unless you set up a well-designed decision-making process.
Inspired by the Integrated Decision Making (IDM) from Holacracy, they designed their own decision-making process to include everyone without making it an endless process. This way, they were able to make an integrative decision on the most crucial topics, without endless meetings.
3. Be completely transparent
Keeping everyone updated without investing too much effort in reports was an important success factor. An open Slack Channel for everyone to join was one of the ingredients. The other was keeping track of all the decisions and steps in a changelog. And most important, using forms to crowdsource choices for the new office. A great way to get super fast input on design and budget choices.
4. Celebrate big and small achievements
Don’t celebrate solely at the end of the project; you’ll skip all the other important steps along the way. By dividing the work into smaller pieces, you can celebrate when those smaller pieces are done. From champagne after the decision to move to beer and music during the presentation of the developed floorplan. And from final design celebration to special delivery lunch on the actual moving day. And of course, freshly baked pie for all employees on the first working day. No matter what you do to celebrate, just celebrate. With this, comes a lot of engagement. The participants are more motivated to finish the smaller parts of the project.
It’s not only the task force that has to do the work. They have the lead. But when the actual move was performed, everyone in the company did their piece. Use all talents, characters, and energy from all employees to involve everyone, so the new office really feels from everyone too. From the first working day at the new Enrise office, people were more helpful and more connected to the collective than before.
Complicated vs Complex
In his book, Brave New Work, Aaron Dignan, founder of The Ready, describes the important difference between Complicated and Complex. Where complicated systems are casual systems, they have cause and effect, just like an engine. Complex systems, on the other hand, are not causal; they are dispositional—the traffic, for example. Complicated things/systems can be fixed. Complex systems can not be controlled, only nudged.
This process is a great example of handling complicated processes in a complex environment. It’s a complicated process because of all the steps and choices to be made. And including 50 colleagues in the process is very complex, because you have 50 opinions, 50 emotions. But also 50 pair of hands.
We know Enrise for quite a while now. Their culture is awesome, and they are truly self-managed. They reinvent their work every day and took it to the next level with moving from one to another office completely self-managed. It is really remarkable and went so smooth that every non-self-managed (is that an existing word?) company can learn a ton from their progressive way of working. We love this approach.