How Nearsoft Created Its Success? By Letting Go of Most of the Rules!
While enjoying the sunny days in California we had the honor to meet with Matt Perez at San Francisco’s waterfront. Matt is the co-founder of Nearsoft, a fast-growing software development company located in the USA and Mexico. We had an instant connection and growing curiosity when Matt started telling us about their way of running the company.
An interesting combination of inspiration derived from seemingly unrelated aspects such as pirate ships and Ricardo Semler’s books ‘The Seven-day Weekend’ and ‘Maverick’ has led to his progressive ideas. So how do these ideas translate to running Nearsoft? And what does their pirate ship currently look like? Let's dive into it.
Nearsoft was founded in 2007 by Matt Perez and Roberto Martinez and currently employs over 250 people. While experiencing rapid growth in the last few years, the company still has no managers, lots of freedom and a highly unique company culture. Nearsoft is part of Bucket List since the very start. And there's every reason for it. Check out what makes this company stand out from all those average organizations out there.
Before new employees can work with clients at Nearsoft they have to go through an intensive on-boarding and orientation process. Matt: “This process takes six weeks. It takes a while before employees are fully aware and trained in Nearsoft’s unique way of working. New hires get to search their own way into the organization. In addition to their on-boarding training, they meet and have lunch with different people and teams in order to learn a sufficient amount of knowledge before they take up their own role.”
They don’t want to create too many rules in the workplace. Matt: “In our society we tend to make rules just to control the small amount of bad people. This is nonsense. The majority of people are good and needlessly have to suffer from the same set of rules. At Nearsoft we trust each other and therefore have very few rules. If an employee needs something, they discuss this with their team and figure out a way to deal with it. We have, however, a guiding set of core values (leadership, commitment, team-work, long-term relationships, being smart & getting things done) and clear principles (transparency and honesty) and processes in place. So, how do we live our values and principles? That’s quite simple, all decisions we make in the organization need to be based on whether they are aligned with our values and principles.”
At Nearsoft you will not find managers. Matt: “We promote self-management principles. We don’t believe in command and control. Our people have the freedom and responsibility to make their own decisions. That doesn’t mean that we don't have any structure. That would lead to anarchy. We are just very flat and democratic. And this is nothing new. Did you know that pirate ships didn’t have hierarchy and decided everything democratically? We are the same, and therefore probably more structured than many hierarchical organizations. We have clear processes in place for many things we do. Besides, we see natural leaders step up in every team. And it’s always a surprise to see who this natural leader will be. Mostly somebody you would never have expected it from stands up to take the lead.”
Don’t grow to big
They don’t want to grow their offices too big. Matt: “We don’t want our offices to have more than 150 people working there. This is the limit to the number of people someone can maintain social relationships with. When the offices get bigger than this number you enter a phase where you end up not knowing who each person is and how this person relates to every other person. So, when our offices cross the limit of 150 people we want them to split and search for an additional building.”
Currently Nearsoft runs offices in Mexico (Hermosillo, Mexico City and Chihuahua) and the US (San Jose). At other organizations, we have seen the same practice of limiting the total number of staff working in one office. For example: Tribes at Spotify are not allowed to get bigger than 150 people for similar reasons.
Trial and error
Constant experimentation seems to be another key to Nearsoft’s success. Matt: “We want to create a culture of experimentation. When a person or team wants to experiment with something new, and there is enough internal support, they are completely free to give it a try. But if we decide to do it, we commit to the experiment for at least a one year period. This way we are sure that we really execute the experiment well. We want to learn and innovate by trial and error so there is no problem when the experiment fails. And trying it for a longer period of time keeps us from giving up too quickly.”
There's more to come..
Unfortunately, we were not able to visit Nearsoft's offices in Mexico during this trip. We'll be going back later to also get an insight view in their offices in Mexico as we'd love to learn even more about this incredibly progressive workplace. A nice extra; their interview series called DojoLIVE!. They interview people to discuss all kinds of stuff about progressive workplaces. Check out the rapidly expanding list of interesting interviews on their website.
For now, we're off to yet another highly inspiring organization on our Bucket List: The Morning Star Company. It's a company that has been pushing the boundaries of self-management for decades and we go over to find out what has made them successful while doing this. Stay tuned as the Corporate Rebels' mini van moves on.*
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Here's something that might interest many readers: a self-assessment to explore how self-managed your team actually is. As more and more companies experiment with self-management, it's good to understand whether you're exploring true self-management, or just a half-baked version of it.
"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing." This famous quote by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard really hits the nail on its head. And as we spend most of our days at work, the work we do says a lot about the way we lead our lives.