Do you think it’s possible to create a truly flat organizational structure? What if you could eliminate the need for reporting relationships? Everyone dreads the annual performance review process so get rid of it! I’ve talked with many organizations who think about these things but I’ve rarely found one who has actually made it happen.  Until now when I find it all wrapped into one organization!

This is a sales organization with about two dozen people. They are one of the most successful sales groups across the country for this company. Each sales group runs autonomously and it is possible to starve if you don’t do a good job of selling. This group has no hierarchy, performance reviews, bonus plans, rigid governance, etc.  Certainly not an environment I think about for a sales group. Yet they continue to perform at a level above other similar groups.

There were many compelling attributes about the company I’d like to examine. The one I was most interested in is their notion of keeping a tally.  Basically when you’re on your game, doing the right things, and acting in the most responsible manner possible your tally increases. On the other hand if you are dropping the ball, not following through, and generally not doing your best your tally decreases. There is no official score keeping and no-one will ever tell you what your tally is. The tally is something people just know about themselves and is a part of the culture.

When people are having a bad period most bosses would have a performance discussion to tell the employee what they’re doing wrong. In this case, it appears most people are thinking about their own tally and when they’re down take action to increase it. When needed the owner takes the opportunity to have a coaching discussion. It will start with the question asking “where do you think your tally sits?”  From there the individual is coached towards building an action plan to increase their tally. Nothing is ever imposed.

In the most extreme example an individual did something unethical which needed to result in their termination. In this case it started with the question “where do you think your tally is?”. From there they had a coaching discussion and in the end the person was asked “if you were the boss what would your next step be?”  The response was to terminate employment.  The part which caught my attention is that despite the need to terminate employment, the culture of responsibility was still at work. The person left the organization but had the unique opportunity to grow in ways most companies wouldn’t afford the departing person.

As a member of the Leadership Gift I loved hearing this example of how a responsibility culture translates into results! Their tally is a different framework but seems to create the same outcome as the Responsibility Process. To succeed the tally requires people to not use blame, justification, shame or obligation but always be responsible for themselves. In creating a culture of responsibility people love coming to work and the results speak for themselves.  This case study has me wondering if hierarchy, performance reviews, carrots and sticks are all signs of a culture not focused on personal responsibility.

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