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B.O.B. Business Over Bosses

GE, the country's largest corporation, is again leading the front in innovation by implementing a new workplace structure that many feel is too uncertain. Naturally, critics in any business will always point out the risk and dangers involved with a new venture or concept, while the Elite entrepreneurs knows that with risk, comes reward.

GE, which experienced strong losses during the recession, may be returning to its former status as a pioneer through what the company has changed in their aviation division. For years in GE Aviation, the company has run some aviation-manufacturing facilities with no foremen or shop-floor bosses. GE implements this structure to improve productivity in factories with a small number of employees with multiple duties and smaller number of orders placed on the factory.

One leader helps set goals and resolves disputes and conflicts, but has no authority or supervision responsibilities over the other employees. Teams, which are created at-will for projects that employees choose to undertake, meet before and after each shift to discuss plan the operation.

The first of these self-managed teams began in the early '90s in a single plant, but in the past five years this system has proven to be very effective, and has been implemented in many other GE facilities.  Now, the boss-free structure is being expanded to all of GE Aviation's 83 supply-chain sites, which employ 26,000.

For all those who get up in the morning dreading the start of their day because of an abhorrent, obnoxious, or unqualified boss that micromanages their every move; this may be a solution that could change your professional life forever. Companies from GE to Google and Hewlett-Packard to GitHub and Gore-Tex have all implemented bossless structures within their companies, and each has seen a boost in revenue and a boost in net employee happiness.

The movie “Office Space” depicts depressed workers wasting away in cubicles filling out pointless and mindless paperwork at the demand of incompetent bosses. This image of micromanagement and inefficiency is present in all industries and can not only strip a company of its raw talent, but can trap an intelligent and ambitious employee in a cycle of failure that is almost inescapable.

For the Elite man, it is crystal clear that anything having the potential to diminish ambition and success must be eliminated. The disruptive solution to the paper-pushing slavery in cubicles – like filling out TPS reports, as depicted in the movie “Office Space – is the boss-free structure, which now seems to be a trend sweeping the business world.

As the name suggests, there are no management levels within the company, which means no bosses to answer to for all employees. The bossless structure compares the traditional top-down model – where orders trickle down from the highest level of the hierarchy to the lowest level of management – to a dictatorship.

Over the past few decades, certain industries have embraced the idea of flattening out their management hierarchies. This trend was most popular among tech companies concerned with maximizing creativity and innovation, as well as manufacturing companies concerned with maximizing productivity.

But now, a handful of companies have taken it a step further by implementing the boss-free structures that give employees freedom, responsibility, and power like never before.

In the bossless structure, there is virtually no management present at all. Teams of employees do the hiring, while the firing of an individual must be agreed upon by the vast majority of employees. Everyone within the employee is held accountable by the group as a whole, while projects are executed on an at-will basis: meaning you choose which projects you want to take and which you don't.

Big picture decision-making that steers the company in one direction or the other is done by everyone in the company through a democratic process of voting. Compensation is usually tied to stock options to ensure everyone's best interest is always in the betterment of the company.

In some bossless companies, a rating process, in which everyone must rate each employee's productivity but without rating yourself, determines an individual's compensation. In other boss-free environments, compensation is determined by the company's performance each quarter, meaning the profits of the company are divided evenly amongst the employees.

The pros of the boss-free workplace are clear. Innovation, creativity, and problem solving are improved through such a structure. Also, it offers more opportunities for employees to excel while promoting the larger business vision.

Adapting, changing, pivoting, and shifting a business is also easier, as problems are almost always recognized first by those at the bottom. And in a flat, bossless workplace, those “at the bottom” are also “on top”, giving them the ability to bring any problems to light immediately.

However, the boss-free environment is most definitely not appropriate for every company. Industries that succeed through implanting meritocracies – where the employee's compensation is tied solely to performance in a “you only eat what you kill mentality” – would never be effective in a boss-free system.

But innovation works in unpredictable ways: one concept will give birth to another, and so on. So, it is not unjustified to think the boss-free workplace could give birth to another system of management that could sweep the business world in all industries.

Elite.

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Ryan Babikian

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