No waste

In a forest, there is absolutely no waste. Every single element is reused in a continuous cycle. A tree produces leaves. The leaves fall to the ground and become compost. And the forest uses every last ounce of the compost to put it back into its ecosystem.

We have the exact same idea for buffer’s organizational design as we’re moving towards a self-managing company. Without any processes, save 4 essential ones, there is little to no occurrence of waste.

As an example, we are at our 5th buffer retreat right now in Sydney, Australia and have changed the design of this week of work and play completely to fit the no manager paradigm.

People can suggest sessions, talks, work groups, yoga groups, whatever it may be and people can opt in to any of them – almost like a barcamp. This ensures that no sessions are imposed on anyone and therefore nothing is kept alive artificially. Even a session that might be extremely popular this retreat can easily “die” on the next one, if no one chooses to join in. In my mind, this creates a certain level of lightheartedness and fluidity that organizational structures often lack.

Swim or sink

With the territory of a forest comes the somewhat harsh reality of no tolerated inefficiencies. For an organization, I believe this goes to the point of getting rid of the idea of job security. If at any point your offered expertise isn’t requested anymore there’ll be no more work to do. You might either pick up a new expertise fast or you’re out.

When nothing is kept alive artificially things can organically grow and die based on demand from other team members and ultimately the customer. This is the best possible outcome for a company and the world in general I believe.

Working less

I also believe that through this, self-managed companies and buffer in this example can work less to get more done. My estimation is that a self-managed team only has to work 6 hours a day to get the work done that normal companies do in 8 or 10 hours a day. Since self-managed orgs have no “zombie meeting” or bloated processes they can operate and create the same results in much less time.

On the flip side this requires a lot of responsibility from the individual to plan their day effectively. It’ll be interesting to observe whether this holds true for us in the future.

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