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No Boss? No Thanks

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No Boss? No Thanks

Far from making them obsolete, the flatter business organisations of today need managers more than ever but in new ways

Aeon,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Managers are here to stay.


Editorial Rating

9

Qualities

  • Controversial
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging

Recommendation

Management guru Gary Hamel threw down the bossless gauntlet in 2011 when he urged, “First, let’s fire all the managers.” The no-manager movement has accelerated ever since, and many organizations now give serious consideration to holacracy and similar flattening and decentralizing approaches. But organizational theorist Nicolai Foss and entrepreneurship expert Peter Klein question the empirical basis for – and the logic of – the bossless company. In an interesting and convincing article for Aeon, Foss and Klein make the case that, amid the technological and demographic dynamics of today’s business world, management has never mattered more.

Summary

The bossless-company notion, no longer merely a fad, has become popular and influential.

Management thinkers such as Gary Hamel and Tim Kastelle have been promoting the notion of the bossless company since at least 2011. They argue that technology is facilitating a shift to flatter organizations, wherein the manager’s role becomes superfluous and wasteful. Bossless advocates point to companies like game developer Valve, retailer Zappos, music platform Spotify and auto manufacturer Tesla as examples of this new approach to organization.

In bossless firms – according to advocates – managerial authority, hierarchy and rigid structures are giving way to a largely self-organizing, flat, flexible, decentralized organization that is consistent with worker democracy. Managers have no role to play...

About the Authors

Nicolai Foss is an organizational theorist and entrepreneurship scholar at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Peter Klein is a professor of entrepreneurship at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University and faculty director of the Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, both in Waco, Texas.


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