A Vote Against Holacracy

Tony Hsieh courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tony Hsieh courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Much has been made of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s embrace of Holacracy, the unorthodox style of corporate governance that does away with managerial roles in favor of self-governing “circles.” The fact that some 14 percent of Zappos’ workforce recently took a buyout rather than work under Holacracy would seem to be the final word on the matter … that is, until Forbes contributor Rodd Wagner landed some haymakers flush on the chin of Hsieh and Zappos in a June 1 piece.

Wagner begins by comparing Hsieh to advertising innovator Jay Chiat (he of Apple’s legendary “1984” Macintosh commercial), who one day got the bright idea of taking away his employees’ assigned desks and computers (such items thereafter had to be checked out daily). Hoarding computers and office supplies became de rigueur, and at least one of Chiat’s employees needed to cart her files around in a wagon every day, looking for a place to sit. “It was like a bad dream,” she said.

Hsieh, says Wagner, is reliving that bad dream. “Just because a CEO has had some brilliant ideas and past successes does not mean all his or her future strategies are worth executing,” Wagner writes. He wonders aloud just how democratic it is to compel employees, via a “get on board or leave” policy, to participate in a system of organization that’s supposedly free of such top-down ultimatums.

Agree or not with Holacracy, Wagner’s piece is compelling—although we have to believe Hsieh would prefer his name next appear in Forbes on one of those “Richest People in the World” lists…

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