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I am the primary shareholder of the company. There is currently only one other minority stakeholder aside from me. It is not a coop. While it seems hard to imagine this working, it actually does. While there almost never fixed deadlines (there are a few exceptions to this, so it’s not fair to say we never have deadlines) in the majority of cases the team members work towards goals they set as part of a broader set of strategic goals.
In our case it works for a few reasons:
I’m sure there are other factors as well, but that’s a list of ones that I think are significant.
There is currently only one other minority stakeholder aside from me.
Does that imply the other 10 employees are not given equity stake in the company?
We have a quarterly team peer review process which tends to highlight problems before they become severe.
Can you be a bit more concrete about some of the things that have come up during these peer review processes that have helped you guys avoid larger obstacles down the road?
That is correct, equity is not part of their compensation.
During peer reviews we track 5 values: communication, quality of contributions, quantity of contributions, cooperation and teamwork, and follow-through. Thus, we are looking for deficiencies in those areas. I believe we’ve talked about writing a blog post about how we do peer reviews, as we have adapted it from other peer review systems and it could be interesting for other small teams as well.
An example of something that we identified because of peer reviews: at one point there was one subset of the team that were having lots of difficulties communicating. The peer reviews showed this issue pretty clearly and gave us the opportunity to openly discuss ways of communicating better, which were implemented and which helped fix the issue.
Awesome, good to hear that peer review has worked out for you guys! Just out of curiosity, why was equity not used as part of the compensation?
No specific reason.
So, it is a company owned by a decent remote programmer who recognizes and hires other decent remote programmers and trusts them to do their jobs on their own schedules. Also, your company doesn’t impose artificial deadlines, and it only has real hard deadlines that cannot be avoided.
I think you might be interested in https://lobste.rs/u/michaelochurch and https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/.
Thanks, I’ve skimmed through it a bit after reading your comment and will dig in a bit deeper in the next couple of days.
I will be interested to know whether your company will have successfully protected the current work culture in 2 or 3 decades.
It’s a fine question - we have to make it to 2 to 3 decades first. :-)
What was the solution?
Mostly it had to do with better writing on issues and pull requests, better documentation, and regular check-ins amongst the team members involved.
How do you compensate your employees? Does it involve profit sharing?
Salary. Right now it does not involve profit sharing, but it’s something I’ve begun thinking about over the last year. I hope at some point that will become a standard benefit.
There are no deadlines,
you’re held accountable by your commitment to your team and forward progress.
So commitment != deadline? I’m curious what “commitment” means for them.
there are no managers
For a “small” team (doesn’t say how small), that may work. For a while. Every time I see something like that, though, I just think of GitHub and other manager-less environments that turned toxic.
no HR department
Combined with no managers?
You’re free to contribute wherever it’s effective
I’m curious who determines what “effective” is?
This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if there’s a lack of “adult supervision” that will be paid for later. I know this can work for “small” teams, but I haven’t seen the manager-less + HR-less work in the long run.
Commitment is to a behaviour not an outcome.
This means if you commit to implement something, then you take it to completion, and if you can’t for some reason then you ask your team for help.
No doubt things may change if we continue growing larger as a team. Even at the 12 we are now, there are constant challenges to ensure everyone on the team is happy and effective. In many ways I am the manager, but we have other mechanisms as well to identify issues before they become severe. One of them is quarterly peer reviews where we each score ourselves plus everyone else on the team. This is done in an anonymous fashion during the review process, however we openly discuss the aggregate results. We also have regular one-on-one’s with team members and myself, which could further reinforce the notion that I am the manager.
Per above, the team as a whole through peer reviews, with me stepping in for one-on-one’s if necessary.
This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if there’s a lack of “adult supervision” that will be paid for later. I know this can work for “small” teams, but I haven’t seen the manager-less + HR-less work in the long run
We make it work now. I have no idea if it’ll stay this way forever, but it works well for us right now.
I think the team is small. Check the other post : https://blog.dnsimple.com/2015/09/retreat-avignon-august-2015/
Small, and male. Culture fits all-around.
While we are 11 men and 1 woman at this point, we are far from homogeneous. We vary in age, religion, nationality and beliefs. Sex is not the only thing that makes us different.
I know this can work for “small” teams, but I haven’t seen the manager-less + HR-less work in the long run.
Not sure why they should be pressured into building something “for the long run”, if something makes a group of people happy and they can pay their bills, why isn’t that enough?
Well, we do have our customers to attend to as well, and they care that we are stable and will be around to take care of them, so that’s what we always aim to do. :-)
Every time I see someone bring up team size & Github’s more recent disarray, I have to consciously stop myself from throwing a fit and screaming “correlation != causation”!
1) Re: Github, the simplified version of the situation was that this was due to VC-initiated VP/Director-level management reshuffling. VC’s wanted “adult supervision” in charge to lead Github to an “exit”.
2) Re: “it must only work for small teams” (and associated mentality), see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._L._Gore_and_Associates#Culture (I specifically avoided using Valve as an example, just to show that even in industries other than software, this is possible).
I think the takeaway here is that more than size, it’s the people that makes up the org. Have the wrong (or rather, a “different”) set of people setting the culture/tone, then a previously loosely allocated organization can quickly fall in line to resemble a more traditional centralized org.
That seems like an odd response to have. Do you think that manager-full environments are never or rarely toxic? That has not been my experience.