Something Tells Me We Can Do Business Differently

By Ana Julia Ghirello for Enlivening Edge Magazine

Everyone is talking about the future of organizations, Teal organizations, millennials, horizontal management, self-managed teams, Holacracy®, you name it. For some this might be pure buzz. However, for those who care to observe with some depth, it is logical to see that we are in the early stages of a transition in style of management and in how we run our businesses.

And this is also not news. Many have written about it for some time, starting with Frederic Laloux using the term “Teal” in Reinventing Organizations, a book which has generated many offsprings. However, what is happening inside many businesses does not come from a theoretical awakening, but from a pragmatic realization that operating based on evolutionary purpose and wholeness ends up delivering better results.

This is what happened to us. We weren’t thinking we wanted to be in the next evolutionary stage of consciousness when we started building a more horizontal management approach at OLX Brazil (then called Bom Negócio) back in 2012. We really just wanted to uncomplicate things and to keep the startup vibe where everyone had a voice, had full context, and had autonomy to do what they did best. We had seen how operating this way delivered amazing results, and we wanted to just keep doing the same, while still growing exponentially. (We went from 20 people to 400 in 4 years).

In similar fashion, we created Honeycomb, a product that helps companies operate with more focus on results and on people. I sat down to create a strategic and operational framework so these two new companies could run with clear focus and autonomy. I wasn’t thinking “let me build a way to operate that is Teal so I can sell this to others”. While solving our own organizational issues—how to link purpose to tangible goals, how to create an environment that fosters a strategic mindset to all and how to connect personal purpose with the company’s purpose—we figured others not only faced similar challenges but could also benefit from our methodology. And so we started a new venture.

Stories like this are more and more a rule rather than an exception., for example, in Brazil, has operated in similar fashion for the past 15 years based on the premise that they wanted to keep a culture which strongly held the “small business vibe”. They are the only ones in their segment growing over 20% yearly while others have stagnated growth.

Everyone who finds a framework that somehow connects purpose, context, and autonomy is managing to deliver better results while keeping people (employees and customers) engaged.

You can see by now, that I lean much more towards doing than towards talking about theories and naming things (not that talking and naming are not needed; it is just a personal preference). So what’s in our heads these days is: How can we give hands-on help, even if just a little, to people who are going through the same process of having an itch that there might be another way of doing business and still delivering better results?

So for you guys out there having the same symptoms, don’t worry about where to fit in, which stage of consciousness you are in, or what tool or framework to use; all that will come after.

“Just” think about 4 things:

  1. Is my purpose clear to me and everyone in my business? That is the impact your company has in the world. If this is clear, everyone who joins will want to build the world your product or service helps build.
  2. Does everyone have the right context? Are objectives, indicators (KPI’s) and roles (who does what) clear?
  3. Am I giving people the roles they want in order to develop their own personal career/life goals? Poor performance comes when people are working mainly on stuff that is not what they seek to develop.
  4. Do I let people do what they do best? Aligned autonomy only comes when purposes are aligned and context is clear.

By trying to operate this way you will find tools, create rules and agreements that will evolve, and create a daily operation that will run smoothly and make sense to you. And it will take time. No one grows without discomfort and adjustment.

I agree it is easier said than done. But we’ve done it, and we are doing it every day. Start simple, with what makes sense to you.

Ana Julia_dsc1144_22805391534_oFounder at abeLLha, social impact incubator which supports the development of social businesses in Brazil with a validated, hands-on methodology, to help business scale fast and have solid operations. Founder at Honeycomb, SaaS which helps companies operate Teal, more strategically, with more transparency and focus on people and purpose. Ana was part of the founding team of bomnegó, where she was deputy CEO, and which later merged with OLX to become Brazil’s largest classifieds player.