Zappos says bye-bye to the concept of managers

by Jeff Hilimire on January 13, 2014

Zappos is getting rid of its managers and creating a holacracy, wherin a company has:

  • No people managers. Maximum autonomy.
  • Organic expansion. When a job gets too big, hire another person.
  • Tension resolution. Identify issues people are facing, write them down, and resolve them systematically.
  • Make everything explicit – from vacation policies to decision makers in each area.
  • Distribute decision – making power and discourage consensus seeking.
  • Eliminate all the extraneous factors that worry people so they can focus on work.

You can read more about the concept of a holacracy on David’s blog.

I’m less specifically interested in the concept of the holacracy and more interested in the idea of breaking the current corporate paradigm. The concept of no managers must be terrifying to some people, as I’m sure the concept of no meetings is equally scary to some.

At Dragon Army, given that we’re a small, very creative team, I’m trying to make sure we don’t fall into the same traps as most companies, forcing management and meetings into the process not because its necessary but because its what we’re accustomed to. But we still struggle with the balance between when meetings are needed and when they are a burden, so its a work-in-progress.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 6.10.59 AM

Our small team at Dragon Army (hanging with the mayor).

I applaud Zappos for trying this with an already humming group of 1,500 employees. I can’t imagine how difficult that will be to achieve but I have a lot of faith in their CEO, Tony Hsieh (read his book). So it will be fun to watch.

I’ll end by saying that this very concept – the idea that “corporate culture” produces too much management, meetings and politics – is why I needed to get back to a startup. And where I was coming from wasn’t even that bad, but that’s the kind of stuff that I just can’t handle. It’s why I like small teams and why I’m thrilled to be where I am. God willing we will have success and grow and I’ll get to try to make sure this company doesn’t fall into the same traps.

  • Drew Hawkins

    I will say that’s one thing I like about where I’m at now. We don’t have any titles (mine is just a job description) and the organization is pretty flat. You have to leave egos at the door to get anything done that way, which is something I like. Everyone feels like they have ownership of the company.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    The biggest objection I hear from employees in a system like that is what they’re going to do when interviewing for their next job without titles to share. Thoughts on that objection?

  • Drew Hawkins

    I think its a fair objection. It’s harder to get picked up if there’s not obvious “advancement” on paper from a title perspective.

    That said, if you actually get to the interview process with another employer and they care more about your titles than the actual work you’ve accomplished, it may not be the best place to move onto.

  • Jeff Hilimire


  • Greg Horowitz

    You could also make it clear to any employees who ask that they are free to put whatever they feel is representative on their resume/LinkedIn profile, and that you trust them to be truthful.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    That’s a great idea, Greg, appreciate you sharing.

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