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One of Oblong’s most intriguing traits is its flat management structure. No boss or CEO heads up the organisation, and all of the paid staff get paid an equal rate. This doesn’t mean no one is a manager; it means everyone is a manager. Paid staff ‘peer manage’ each other using a system of regular check-ins, consensus decision-making, differentiated job roles, joint planning, and clear target-setting.
Every Wednesday morning we each talk about how we’re doing and give an update on our progress against targets we’ve set for ourselves that quarter – “I haven’t got the newsletter done yet, but I’ve done the report for the funders,” someone might say, or, “The volunteer-run kids group on Saturdays is going great, but I still need to record the number of people who turned up on the database.” The agenda contains thorny issues that couldn’t be dealt with individually – for example: “What should the new membership scheme look like, and who is going to take it forward?” Some staff have described a concept of joint responsibility (for making decisions) with individual accountability (for carrying out those decisions). Sometimes decisions take a long time to get made; often the combination of several people’s ideas creates fast, flexible and innovative solutions.
The staff team tweaks and improves the system for managing each other perhaps once a year: this year we made the way we appraise each other’s performance more comprehensive and focused, but less frequent. Perhaps like any teamwork, attentive and focused listening makes a crucial difference to how well the peer management and joint decision-making processes function.
“Non-hierarchy is an aspiration, not an achievement”
Extract taken from Stella Darby Ob-log