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Is Zappos Management Structure Replicable in Indian Outsourcing?

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Zappos Has Grown Astronomically With “No Bosses.” Can We All Do the Same?

We, at Hi-Tech Outsourcing, are very interested in the initiative by Zappos, the Amazon owned online shoe and clothing store, to create a management-free corporate structure. Zappos has received substantial publicity and has for the past two years been instituting a structure called holacracy which describes itself as a process that “removes power from a management hierarchy and distributes it across clear roles,”

No Bosses

As describes it, there are a clear set of rules for how a team breaks up work and defines roles. Once those roles are clearly defined, the necessity for management intervention on a specific project is reduced. Dynamic roles though replace static job descriptions. In holacracy, people have multiple roles on different teams and the role descriptions are constantly updated. This gets executed via something called The Role Marketplace, an internal job board with specific tasks and jobs that other departments need completed.

Zappos didn’t invent the term or the movement. But it has embraced it fully. According to CIO Magazine’s article, they have weaned themselves off the concept of bosses. Zappos’ job titles reflect the job skills required, as opposed to employees’ position within the corporate hierarchy.

Hi-Tech Holacracy

Hi-Tech Outsourcing has dozens of projects going on at the same time. In many areas we have the same team working on projects that repeat. The advantage of that is that the specialists become more proficient in the nuances of the repeated project. Our projects also require an engaged stimulated workforce. QA is vital in our projects and those involved in a specific set of projects get to know our clients’ needs intimately. Could Zappos’ execution of holacracy educate us as to how we could improve our organizational structure? Or would the enforced role flexibility force us to forfeit expertise on a specific project?

We are deploying some holacratic organizational functionality in certain projects. For specific IT development projects, we draw resources based on roles and expertise and developers based on skill sets.

Hi-Tech software services has gained significant benefits and has grown rapidly by leveraging a “resource pool model.” Clients consistently want projects completed faster with lower costs. By using a “just in time” team for our projects with resources that have the expertise and skill appropriate for the specific project, we have lowered costs and improved turnaround time for our clients, in addition developers have improved their talents and skill sets our holacracy so as to be available for more projects.

What About Raises and Firing?

That said it is clear to us that at least at present, we cannot completely escape traditional structure. I have not completely embraced how the flat organizational structure of holacracy properly addresses hiring, firing, performance reviews and raises. In addition, in exploring the idea of implementing a full-fledged holocratic structure, we came upon HolacracyOne, a self-proclaimed network of Holacracy providers, which maps out what is involved. It appears that implementing holacracy involves a level of overhead that we may not be able to undertake. We will continue to monitor the emergence of the holacratic structure and use as it benefits our clients. Let’s see how this plays out.

Pranit Banthia
About the Author: Pranit Banthia is a Dynamic Computer Engineer who brings in more than 21 years of work experience in administration, human resource management, marketing, public relations and government liaison in multi-services and multi-industry scenario. He has been a corporate trainer for Indian companies and provides management consultancy for various companies in the U.S. and the U.K.