Our First Bucket List Visits: 4 Things We Learned
Last week we were pleased to meet up with our very first bucket list heroes. Two of our great sources of inspiration are Sjoerd van der Velden (BvdV) and Mark Vletter (Voys) The meetings were full of inspiration and we love to share our main learnings with you.
The Bucket List Heroes
Our first trip led us to the far north of The Netherlands to visit the team of Voys in Groningen. There we met with Mark Vletter, one of our bucket list heroes. Mark is founder and the driving force behind Voys and Devhouse Spindle. We visited the offices of Voys and learned about the development of the unique Voys organizational model. The so-called 'Voys model' is unique in its kind. Voys has no managers and no fixed job functions. The model is based on Holacracy, an organizational 'operating system' (more details on that here.
Sjoerd van der Velden
The other day we traveled to Utrecht to visit BvdV, a Dutch attorney and tax consultancy firm. We met with co-founder Sjoerd van der Velden and lawyer Martina van Eldik. We learned how they set up their innovative culture and discussed how they have organized their business. It was an eye opening experience, as it was great to see in practice what we have been reading about for years.
The way of working of BvdV has a lot of similarities (read: basically no rules) with our very first source of inspiration, Brazilian company Semco. The main things that differentiate BvdV from other organizations are: no hierarchy, a 4 day work week, 100% democratic, profit-sharing arrangement, and a capped amount of billable hours.
It was great to finally see the companies that we have been reading about so much. The atmosphere, the enthusiasm and the joy that the people we talked to experienced in their daily work was very inspirational. Obviously, we learned a lot these days. We want to share with you the four main learnings from Mark en Sjoerd.
4 lessons we learned
1. Great companies with happy employees really exist!
We are delighted to announce that great companies with happy employees really exist. We have found them, and witnessed them with our own eyes! The visits to both Voys and BvdV were truly inspiring. It turned out that both Mark and Sjoerd are great examples of inspiring and charismatic leaders who show that there's an unusual way to make organizations and their employees flourish.
It seems they have cracked the code for themselves and for their organization. Independently they have envisioned, built and developed new ways of working based on the intrinsic motivation of their employees. Their strategies turn out to be highly successful. Both on the personal and financial level. So, if you're stuck in a boring job in a company that is unable to motivate its employees, there is still hope!
Keep following our adventures to see which companies stand out or what you can change in your organization to make a positive difference.
2. Organizations can flourish without managers and bosses
Both BvdV and Voys perform extremely well. They have highly engaged and happy employees and are financially healthy. Surprisingly no manager or boss can be found in their offices. But how do they organize themselves if there is no boss?
The 80 employees of Voys work according The Voys Model. This model is based on a combination between the works of Dan Pink, Simon Sinek and Holacracy. Dan Pink defined the intrinsic motivators purpose, mastery and autonomy (Voys added security to this list) as leading factors for engagement. Simon Sinek advocates in his brilliant TED talk that great companies should focus on the Why, and Voys has strongly included this in its model. In addition, Voys has introduced Holacracy as their 'operating system'. It seems that Holacracy has brought them increased efficiency and clear roll diversion (determining who does what).
The 30 employees of BvdV work completely different. At BvdV they don't believe in structures, managers or limiting rules. The organization is solely based on the values of democracy, freedom, transparency and entrepreneurship. Every month the 30 employees come together for a monthly meeting and decide everything together in a democratic way. With everything we really mean everything, also subjects as the amount of holidays, hiring of new employees, salaries, and lay offs.
3. Don't be a workaholic, enjoy your job ánd your life!
The lawyers of BvdV have dramatically cut with the standard workaholic culture which can be found in most law firms. They have capped the amount of billable hours and work only 4 days a week. This innovation has been a key to their success. We, and presumably you too, like the idea of working less while being more productive. The Dutch lawyers don't stand alone in their believes.
An American technology training company called Treehouse lives by the same standards. The fast-growing start-up now has more than 100 employees, all of whom work just four days a week. And yes, we believe we could all be able to do it.
4. Employees enjoy an environment based on trust and freedom
We were impressed by the enthusiasm of the employees from Voys and BvdV. They all expressed the joy they felt for working in a free and trusting environment. They are encouraged to take initiative and solve problems creatively as there are no predefined rules and processes or bosses to control how you do your work. It not only eliminates costly control mechanisms (such as managers), it also sets free incredible amounts of positive energy in employees.
Next week we will make a trip to Brussels, Paris and Eindhoven to visit three more of our Bucket List heroes. The three of them have been successfully pioneering in the field and have acquired a vast amount of experience and knowledge.
We are looking forward to meet up with Frederic Laloux (writer of Reinventing Organizations), Prof. Isaac Getz (writer of Freedom Inc) and Prof. Mathieu Weggeman (writer of Managing Professionals? Don't!).
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In early 2018 I took on a new challenge. After two years in the popular management world I decided to take a leap into academic life. I started a part-time PhD program in Business at the VU University Amsterdam. Since then I have researched how large organizations (with thousands of employees) can scale and organize without the need for middle management. It’s time to share what we’ve learned.