Today's article was created by Hivewyre co-founder, Patrick Schwind, all about the Hive's holacratic, FLAT org. Take a look!
When we started Hivewyre in 2012, our mission was very simple— “Growing. Together.” Our goal was to grow in three main areas:
  1. External (customer co-op that creates incremental growth in ecommerce)
  2. Community (giving back)
  3. Internal (grow our employees)
The methodology we chose to deliver this growth was through a FLAT structure, otherwise known as a holacracy. I define our FLAT structure as an organization in which everyone knows their objective commitments while leaders takes on new commitments organically. As a whole, no one person can fire anyone. We give our employees the resources to succeed and foster growth, a sharp contrast to dictating it. What’s more, with sales as the bulk of our headcount, we’ve encountered both some unique challenges and advantages. A couple that come to mind? Colleagues tend to quickly push out individuals that aren’t a cultural fit and more, peers get to see leaders rise up versus being forced into traditional “management” positions. In a structure like this, the key to ultimately achieving success is through corporate transparency. The corporate vision must be clear and it’s important not to deviate. For us, this means sharing often guarded information like financials (and the challenges that come along with them) with the company. We don’t hide failure and we don’t run from our mistakes.  We do our best to own our decisions on why something worked and why something didn’t, leading to the next natural step—listening to feedback.  As an org, it’s important to create venues for people to vent and more, to create venues for people to become thought-leaders and change leaders. Honestly, creating a FLAT organization from scratch hasn’t been easy.  I’ve read books on how it should work theoretically, but they never seem to go into the roadblocks. Here at Hivewyre, the main roadblock within our culture seems to be the inability for individuals to confront peers or, when confronted, to not become defensive/dismissive. This has been a huge challenge and one that we confront monthly. In order to solve this, we decided to implement monthly company trainings on how to communicate better with peers. This includes how to receive feedback and how to deal with times when your idea doesn’t garner enough support from colleagues.  As a leader myself, when I do surveys or ask other leaders how we are doing, the biggest pushback received generally is that we need even more training on these subjects. Not only that, within our FLAT structure, I feel like I’ve gotten a glimpse at how the future of organizations will function. Conflict management, autonomy and objective commitments are all necessary skills for future business leaders. In a holacractic organization, you are setting the bar at the level of growth you aspire to have for all employees. When I talk to prospective candidates about Hivewyre, I always ask them how they plan on using Hivewyre to propel their career. I want them to use our organization to launch their it; we want to be a springboard for their growth. In our experience, by telling potential employees that the expectations are to be able to handle conflict, garner influence internally and externally, and to never miss commitments, we’re showing them the end result. Continuously training and adding resources gives them the tools. Within our business model, it’s not rare for us to hire individuals who have never done programmatic advertising sales or operations and to see them compete head-to-head with seasoned employees within their first year. As an organization, we’re not quite where we want to be yet— but if the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that we’re definitely on the right path.
If you have questions on how to create or change your organization into a FLAT structure, contact Patrick Schwind at Patrick@hivewyre.com
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