- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Zappos without the zapatos: not all inmates want to take over the asylum.

Zappos, (from zapatos, Spanish for shoe) has gone self-management. If you have not heard about Zappos, it does not mean that you don’t like shoes, or don’t buy apparel online. But it means you have been in a sabbatical in managerial and organizational terms. Ask Mr Google, he did not go on a sabbatical.

Zappos, represents for many the quintessence of avant-garde management, the pinnacle of employee engagement (they have ‘happiness’ in the water supply) and almost an icon of what a modern culture ‘should’ look like. Being at that spotlight of management thinking (and unthinking) must be hard.

So Zappos decided that, having mastered the brand of ‘happiness’, being bought by Amazon even if Amazon did not need their online platform or their zapatos, and relocated to Las Vegas recreating a Zappos eco-family-eco-system-eco-company, was not enough. They need a further reinvention and that looked like full, unreserved, self-management. Not any type of self-management, but the latest ready made, out of a net box, called Holacracy. Yes, you should Google as well, if needed.

The transition is proving painful and as many as 200 employees are leaving ‘en masse’, proportionally a significant exodus.

The Wall Street Journal has been explicit: ‘At Zappos, Banishing the Bosses Brings Confusion. After quirky retailer adopted no-titles ‘self-management’ system, more than 200 workers decided it wasn’t for them’

Reams will be written dissecting the why of all this. Here are the ingredients for the cooking of the arguments/your own arguments:

Holacracy was copied blindly. The siren sang too loudly, and they heard her.

Holacracy needed a transition and this did not go well. Translation: the transition to self-management needs strong non-self management.

Holacracy is naïve

Holacracy is naïve and full of logical holes

Imposing self-management in an organization is not even like the ‘lunatics taking over the asylum’ syndrome, but the doctors imposing to the lunatics to take over. With my apologies for the silly analogy

Combinations and/or all of the above

Will Zappos get some of its zapatos back, or will there be sandals and blisters all over?