Liberated Companies

Liberated Companies unleash employees’ initiative and responsibility. It’s a way of managing, organizing and developing companies that may be essential for success in this digital age.

The 10 Habits of Liberated Companies

Digitalization is all around us. It’s a revolution – but what for? Everyone feels that the old ways of working are no longer working. But what is the new state that the Digital Revolution is aiming for? Is it the Lean, Agile, Networked, Teal or Self-Managed organization?

My guess it is a combination of all of these. I call that the Liberated Company.

For an introduction check into the concept check out The 10 Habits of Liberated Companies.  The 10 Habits provide directions for the transformation of companies, not absolute destinations.

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The term Liberated Company has been made popular by Issak Geetz and Brian Carney in their 2016 book “Freedom Inc.” The concept has much in common with Frederic Laloux’s 2014 book “Reinventing Organizations”.

Liberated Management Practices

The building blocks of Liberated Companies are specific, neatly packaged and labeled Management Practices – sometimes called Agile Work-Outs or Work Hacks.

These are meant to be tried, adapted, adopted, perfected or discarded in an explorative fashion. Not based on a rigid theory of management, but driven by empiric research and what works in your organization.

Here is a compendium of Liberated Management Practices, over a hundred and counting.

These management practices can be applied in an incremental manner, one at a time. Each Work-out has different requirements and dependencies. The table below describes in the columns how far a company should ideally be mature in providing an environment of freedom and trust in 4 Maturity levels. In the rows is what I call the Severity of a work-out. Severity is a rather arbitrary judgment of mine on the risk of adopting this practice:

  • A “very low” severity Work-out has very low risks of backfiring. It might not work, but its failure will not be catastrophic
  • If a “Very high” severity Work-out fails it will likely have catastrophic consequences

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Please note that the potential benefits are somewhat correlated to severity, but not fully. Sometimes even a simple exercise like running a round robin at the end of Meeting and asking everyone for his Benefits and Concerns might have a very high Benefit/Cost ratio virtually risk-free.

  • For an introduction of Liberated Management Practices check out this post 76 Agile Workouts & A Fish.
  • More sources on Work hacks etc. can be found on the resource page

Liberating – Step by Step

Just adopting this or that Management Practice can soon feel like pure gimmickry. And it is pure Management fashion, if not supported by an underlying Mindset and a clear that of directions to which to work towards, the 10 Habits of Liberated Organizations.

 

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Underlying this model is the thinking that companies can be changed gradually. Both in small steps via this or that low maturity, low severity practice, but in large revolutionary steps, too. After all, large steps need preparation. It is often necessary to work the organization and oneself into new mindsets.

Check out these posts for more info on the transformation path: Let a Thousand Nerds Blossom! and 4 Steps to Release the Full Potential of Organizations.

Which Companies are liberated?

The best list of liberated companies is maintained and growing by Corporate Rebels: The Bucket List. Those guys have been visiting companies with modern approaches to management all around the world and are continuing to do so.

Often technology companies are at the forefront of liberated management practices. Such as:

  • AirBnB
  • Google
  • Netflix
  • Microsoft (sic!)
  • Spotify

But the poster child for Liberated Management practices are the following:

  • Haier –  (about 60.000 employees) the worlds leading manufacturer of household appliances is arguably the most radical and successful inventor of new management practices
  • Buurtzorg –  (about 14.000 employees) is the leading provider of ambulant care in the Netherlands
  • Atlassian – (about 2500 employees) an Australian software company which relies heavily on the collaborative technology

Actually, there are a lot more companies that have implemented liberated practices in pockets of their organizations. Even more traditional global giants such as Unilever, Michelin, Daimler, Volkswagen etc. Whats more, even in repressive work regimes, such as at Amazon, there are pockets of liberated management practices (like 2 pizza teams, PR style briefings etc). Employing some “new” management practice somewhere in the organization doesn’t make a company liberated, though. But it does show the benefits of employing these practices.

Some Background

The term Liberated Company has been made popular by Issak Geetz and Brian Carney in their 2016 book “Freedom Inc.” The concept has much in common with Frederic Laloux’s 2014 book “Reinventing Organizations”.

There is no such thing as the Liberated Company. To become a Liberated Company is to develop in certain directions which allow the individual to contribute more for mutual personal and organizational benefit.

The merit of the term Liberated Company is that subsumes all the great social management inventions of practitioners (Agile Software Development, the Self-Management Scene, the Lean Start-up) and modern academic research by organizational psychologists, sociologists, and the odd empirically driven management researcher.