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@yegor256 · Shift-M/46: Fair Management with Pim De Morree

Pim De Morree was our special guest.

Pim’s Twittter: @im_de_morree

Video is here.

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[00:00:00]Yegor: Hey everybody, this is our shift and podcast. The podcast we record and discuss four management issues, usually more focused on software development department, but not always. Today we have a very interesting guest, his name is Pim, he will introduce himself and we’re gonna talk about something really interesting about the revelation in the territory of management. So Pim, tell us about yourself very quickly.

[00:00:26]Pim: Hi Yegor, my name is Pim de Morree and I’m one of the co-founders of Corporate Rebels. And with Corporate Rebels, we’re on a mission to make work more fun and to unleash a workplace revolution around the world. So most of what we’re doing is lots of research into all kinds of progressive organizations that are busting the status quo on how work is organized. And we’re sharing all of that research through a blog, through books, through talks and sessions, et cetera. In hope that more organizations start to change the way they work.

[00:01:02]Yegor: That’s how I found you actually, through the blog. And I spent, I can tell you a few hours on reading different chapters. If it’s okay for you if today I will be playing a little bit devil’s advocate so I will be against your ideas sometimes and you will have to defend them, it’s fine?

[00:01:19]Pim: Yes, it’s perfectly fine. It’s more fun than just having a conversation where we’re just gonna compliment each other all the time.

[00:01:26]Yegor: Right, ‘cause I actually agree in most cases, but sometimes I disagree so I’m gonna focus on things with where I don’t agree with you. So the first, yeah, the first question is you’re saying that hierarchical pyramids and the way organizations are designed right now, classic organizations, big organizations is wrong and you suggest to have something different. So tell me about what you suggest and then I will criticize that.

[00:01:49]Pim: Yep. (chuckles) So the thing is that most organizations today are using very traditional management models, where you have the CEO on top of an organization, you have lots of middle management layers down in between. And then you get to the frontline where you have the people that are actually doing most of the operational work. They’re often divided into functional departments, so you have sales, HR, finance, operations and all of these things are divided and everyone’s focusing on their, in their specific part of the process. So people are actually focused on optimizing their part, but not on focused on creating the best product, service or experience for customers from a more total point of view. So especially nowadays when things are changing so quickly and when the products you make today and the service you deliver today are not what customers expect from you in the next month or the next year. So we need to constantly adjust and adapt. The thing is however, that traditional models and this traditional hierarchy is not able to change very quickly. And therefore, lots of pioneers that we’ve been visiting are organizing in an alternative way. So with that less hierarchy or at least less structural hierarchy and lots of more entrepreneurship and ownerships distributed into small teams that I’ve a lot of decision-making power and a lot of autonomy themselves. And almost acting as if they are separate businesses within the larger organization. And they do this to be able to adapt more quickly, to give people the autonomy to have fun at work, to make their own decisions, to be more entrepreneurial and to actually feel a bit of that ownership that so many managers love to talk about.

[00:03:44]Yegor: But we still have The hierarchy. As far as far as I understand, the hierarchy is required in order to decompose a larger problem or a larger responsibility into smaller elements. So we always try to keep somebody in charge, somebody responsible for the final decision. And if we take this away, then there will be multiple people responsible for something but in the end if we fail or we don’t get the results we’re expecting, then who is to blame, who is to, who is to be accountable for that.

[00:04:16]Pim: Yeah, so I think it’s important to understand that when you talk about these different ways of working and these alternative organizational structures that you don’t just transfer autonomy and freedom to the frontline. You also transfer responsibility and accountability to the people at the frontline. So nowadays where you are working at the front line and you get a signature of approval for something you’re about to do in your team. And whoever signature is on that piece of paper is the one responsible for the end result. Even if that’s a manager or a director, somewhere higher up in the organization. So by having these processes in place, you’re kind of actually push the responsibility away from the frontline and these organizations do the opposite. So they don’t just give people freedom and autonomy to make their own decisions, they also give them the opportunity and the full responsibility and accountability for determining the end result. So if teams are unsuccessful, they also have to suffer the consequences. If they are successful, they can also benefit from for example, more profit sharing or more opportunities to grow personally and as a team. So I think it’s important to understand that that it’s not just about giving people autonomy and freedom, it’s also about giving them responsibility and accountability.

[00:05:33]Yegor: You mentioned the situation, you are my employee, I’m your boss and I come to you and I say, this is the problem we need to solve, we need to build this product during this year and we have this amount of money. And you have people responsible for this in your team. And then you go to, I mean, you commit to this, you promise me that you’re gonna do that. And then you go to your people and you are gonna be the boss for them. So you are the element of their hierarchy and you tell them like you promise me something as well and they promise you, they don’t promise me. So they talk to you, so this is the hierarchy and you are suggesting to get rid of you in this model, like me talking to them directly or how is it gonna work?

[00:06:12]Pim: Ideally The boss would be The customer and not somebody up in the hierarchy. So ideally you want your people at the frontline listening to customers because they are the ones closest to them. So they’re probably also the ones being able to make the best decisions. So yes, you could easily take me out because I’m just transferring your message onto the teams that are going to execute it. But even better is not that you’re calling the shots, but that the people in those teams are making the decisions to deliver products and services in a way that satisfies their customers. And I think this is the important thing that we are mostly forgetting in traditional organizations, where you see that people at the top think they know everything. They know the best strategy, they know to best products to develop, the best services to create for new customers. But in fact, if you create your organizations that are working in such complex environments, it’s impossible for a person at the top of an organization to know everything and to make the best judgments on every single decision. So we actually need to distribute some of that authority and decision-making power to people at the frontline. So they can constantly interact in customers and also have the authority to make new products and set up new services, et cetera. So I think it’s about getting away from the traditional idea that the boss knows everything, that they have to transfer that message to a middle manager and then that middle manager transfers and coordinates that to the people at the frontline. I think the entire dynamics should be changing in order for people to be able to succeed in such a more complex, more interconnected environment.

[00:07:52]Yegor: It seems like you’re advocating for more like a startup environment. Like the place where there are many companies or small unions or teams which each team is connected to customers and they will be pretty successful. But it seems to me that the world is moving in the opposite direction. The world is moving to companies which are huge like enterprises, so which are the size of the world. And these companies actually win, these companies have all the resources right now and small startups are basically being acquired by these large enterprises. And then large enterprises, they want to control all the resources and they have the majority of resources. So don’t you think that you’re moving against the stream now?

[00:08:31]Pim: Yeah, partly for sure and that’s also why the company’s called Corporate Rebels because we’re advocating indeed I should say the opposite. We’re not a fan of big corporations with their traditional structures, buying up smaller companies and exploiting everything that comes their way in order to make more money for shareholders. I think it’s an outdated model, it will ruin the world as we’re already seeing in various places. And the beauty of it, there’s not just these traditional organizations, there’s also a counter movement of organizations that are working differently. The ones that we’ve been researching that show that it’s possible to organize more humanly, more motivating and also very successfully.

And let me give you one example and it’s a beautiful example of an organization that has ditched their traditional hierarchy and replaced it with a network of team structure. And it’s a company called Hire, it’s a Chinese manufacturing company and they employ about 80,000 people at the moment. And they split up their big organization into more than 4,000 small companies which they call micro enterprises. So mostly 10 to 15 people who are taking care of their own part of the organization that have full responsibility on strategy. They have the freedom to hire and fire people themselves and to make their own decisions when it comes to products and services. And the interesting thing is that they’ve ditched the entire hierarchy with that and replaced it with a much more dynamic and much more successful network of all kinds of small startups. And the beauty of it is if you would look at a traditional organization, there’s so much waste in the way it’s organized. You have these huge HR departments, huge finance departments and all of these support departments that are getting their budgets every year, make sure that they spend all of their budgets so they won’t be cut the year after. And there’s a big part of the success of an organization that has to move, have to go towards these big support departments. At Hire, they do this a little different and in many progressive organizations they do this different.

So instead of listening to HR departments who set up rules and policies and decide for everyone else in the organization how to do things, most of those responsibilities are transferred to the front line, to the smaller entrepreneurial teams. And if there are still some support departments in place, they are often as, for example, in Hire, split up into small companies that have to supply their services to their internal companies. So at Hire there was no traditional HR department, you just have a couple of micro enterprises that supply HR services to other internal companies. So it’s really as a network of startups and startup would normally go out to find another company that can help them, for example, with their HR challenges. And it’s very similar within Hire as an organization, which makes it much more dynamic, much more competitive as well. And they show that by doing this, you can also be much more successful as an organization than when you compare it to this traditional model.

[00:11:34]Yegor: That sounds great But I think that most people actually prefer, I mean real regular people prefer to work in large organizations instead of startups because these organizations provide them security, provide them social guarantees. And the startups are great for people who are ready to take risks but most people, in my opinion, most people, they actually prefer to stay somewhere where the income is guaranteed for years ahead. But what you suggest is more, seems to me more like a risky territory where today you are in a startup, tomorrow the startup doesn’t need, doesn’t have any customers and then what you do, you’re gone. Or you need to again try to find a job in another startup and maybe you will not find it. So what you gonna promise these people?

[00:12:19]Pim: Well, let’s, so let’s look at today’s result of the current way of working that we have. So as you say, many people are looking for security, according to what you’re saying. Apparently while we provide a lot of security for many people, we see that the disengagement numbers are extremely high in today’s organizations. Where about 85% of the people are not happy, or and are disengaged with their work. So apparently that way of working that most companies currently adopt is not really working for people. At the same time, a lot of people are experiencing symptoms of burnout, a lot of people are feeling useless in their workplace. So they feel that their work is not meaningful at all to society. So there’s a big problem in the way we currently organize for people and for the organizations because they have a lot of untapped potential. So the old way of working doesn’t really seem to work and so we have to look for new alternatives. And the beauty of these alternative models is that it taps into the main drivers of motivation.

So if you look at the research being done on the topic for decades, which Dan Pink summarized really nicely in his book “Drive”. Motivation at work and the drivers for that are, and meaning at work or purpose at work, having autonomy and mastery. So continuously developing the things you like to do most and becoming better at what you love to do. These three elements are not very present in traditional organizations but in these progressive organizations, they are much more available for people to tap into. So yes, it makes, it might be harder, it might be tougher for people. And from the research that we’ve done we see that about 15 to 20% of the people during such transformations leave the company because they don’t wanna work in this new type of environment. But at the same time, 80 to 85% of the people flourish in this new environment. So we, I think in general we overestimate the amount of people that are just looking for security and for a boss who tells them what to do. And we underestimate the group or the size of the group of people that are looking for something more at work.

[00:14:31]Yegor: I think I agree with This premise that people enjoy and they enjoy the purpose, that they want to work for something meaningful but I think it only works in case people are financially satisfied. So they have some basic level of guarantee and then you can talk to them about purpose and then you can talk to them about making something and building something meaningful. But that’s the second step, but the first step if you take away the social guarantee, the money guarantee, financial guarantee and then probably most people will actually start saying that “No, no, no, give us back, “take us back to the traditional enterprise where the company guarantees everything.””” Don’t you think it’s more like this is, what do you think about this?

[00:15:15]Pim: I fully agree with you. If it doesn’t make any sense to start talking to people about purposeful work if they don’t even have work or if they are so, if they are in poverty, if they don’t have enough money to live properly. Then having fun at work or being motivated at work, it’s so secondary or maybe even less important than that. So it’s just the muzzle of hierarchy of needs I think, where you need the basics in order to be fulfilled and only then you can start looking at the other things in life that are important. So, but I fully agree with you like security, financial security, a proper job, all of these things come first. But the thing is for many organizations and especially for many people in, around the world, this is already almost a given. Where the vast majority of people are used to having security and they can more easily switch to different jobs that have maybe a bit more risk. And if we want those people who are apparently longing for more in the workplace, why don’t we give them the opportunity to do that. To not just make money but also do something they truly believe in and feel as it’s useful to society. And at the same time have autonomy and mastery in things and how they’re doing that. I think that’s an important thing to understand and it’s definitely not something for people who are in poverty and who don’t have a job whatsoever. But for the vast majority of people, we can start looking at at giving them more opportunities in life which will in the end also, I believe benefits society.

[00:16:58]Yegor: And let’s say we moved to this new model of work, which you suggest in some time, do you think people or the principles of managing people will also have to be changed inside those startups? So let’s say we break down our large enterprises into small enterprises like you suggest the small startups, do, we will need to, what do you think we will need to change the way we manage people inside them or not?

[00:17:21]Pim: Well, I think it’s important to understand that it’s not just about splitting bigger companies up into smaller ones. We’ve also researched lots of a bigger organization, organizations that still allow their people to act as if they are separate teams. And at the same time also benefit from the environment and the opportunities in a larger organization. So for example, here in Holland, there’s a beautiful example called Buurtzorg. It’s a new Neighborhood Care Organization with lots of nurses that take care of patients in their homes. And it’s 15,000 people strong but there’s not a single manager in the entire organization. So it’s more than a thousand teams of 10 to 12 nurses who take care of everything that needs to happen within their specific neighborhood. And the organization is there to provide them knowledge, to provide them the opportunity, the platform to work like this. But the fact that they’re with so many people makes them even stronger because they can share knowledge, learn from each other and exchange resources much better than if it were all separate companies.

So I think that’s an important thing to mention. Within those teams and within those smaller parts of the organization, those more autonomous parts, I do think it’s different, it’s important that we manage differently. That we even in those smaller units, if it’s 10 to 15 people or maybe if they are a bit bigger and about 50 or 100 people, it’s still important to change and to get rid of this more hierarchical model where people at the top decide. So I think even there it should be more self-managing, self-organizing, giving people the opportunity to make their own decisions, of course aligned with where the organization is going. But giving people much more of that responsibility and accountability as well and to make their own judgments in how they wanna do their job. So yes, there’s a lot of things that need to be changed. I think also in the smaller companies we need to focus more on purpose. We need to create more supportive leadership and experiment more regularly with new ways of working. So there’s a lot of stuff to be ditched and a lot to be done if you truly wanna change the way people work.

[00:19:34]Yegor: And How these nurses are managed. I mean, I’m gonna use the word managed, even though there are no managers. But how they’re managed in case of, in case one of them gets lazy or in case one of them gets more productive than the other one. So who makes the decision for rewards and who makes the decisions for punishment?

[00:19:54]Pim: Yeah, so the reward is quite simple because if you look at financial reward at least, so the financial reward is very straightforward. So there’s just this collective bargaining agreement in the Netherlands, that’s depends if your level of education and the amount of experience you have determines your salary. So for the nurses it’s very straightforward. Within the teams, if somebody is underperforming, it’s up the team for themselves to make a decision on this. So does 10 to 12 nurses are in charge of hiring and firing people or to, they’re also responsible for the performance of that team. So if somebody is slacking or as you mentioned lazy, the rest of the team will have to solve it. It’s not, they cannot go up to a manager and say, “I want somebody to solve this issue for me.” So they have to be proper grownups about it, talk to each other and support each other to become better. If that doesn’t work, they have the authority to fire in those teams.

[00:20:49]Yegor: So That sounds like the management is spread over 10 people and these 10 people don’t have any education in the area of management. So they don’t know really how to professionally manage people, they never studied like psychology, they never studied the techniques of management. So there are nurses basically. And then one of them becomes lazy for some reason. So there will be like a group of children actually like fighting with each other and deciding who is the bad, who is the bad nurse in this sandbox. And then they will just kick that person, maybe that person didn’t actually deserve to be kicked out, but they together will start maybe bullying that person or doing something like that because they’re not professional managers, they don’t know how to do that. So they will act like kids when they’re playing in the kindergarten, they will just kick the weakest, the weakest element will be kicked out, don’t you think?

[00:21:37]Pim: No, no. Unless you have a pretty fucked up culture in your organization, this might be happening. But if you have a proper culture in place this doesn’t, simply doesn’t happen. Like, first of all your assumption that trained managers are good at doing this, I think is completely wrong and false. Like there’s so many people who are managers who haven’t been trained to become a manager because they’re good at being a sales person and they’ll just be promoted to become a sales manager, no experience. So and even research shows this, so you, if you promote people like this because of their expertise, in case of a salesperson you will actually lose a good sales person and you gain a bad manager. There’s actually research backing this up so that doesn’t happen. At the other end of the spectrum, where you have a team doing everything themselves. Yes, there is group pressure, there is peer pressure to perform. So it’s quite transparent because you’re working with few people, if you just have 10 or 12 people, it’s important to understand that what you’re contributing is very visible to the other 10 people in your team. So I think it’s important to understand that people are responsible adults. They make lots of important decisions at home, they communicate with their friends, their family, they organize things together in their communities. They educate their kids, they buy houses, they buy cars, all kinds of expensive stuff. And then when they come into the workplace, we don’t expect them to make even the smallest decision because we think only managers are capable of making proper decisions. But instead of seeing people as children who start in-fighting if you give them a little bit of responsibility, we should be looking at them as responsible adults, treating them in that way. And we see that if organizations do this, then they will also benefit from the fact that people will start behaving like proper adults. Instead of in traditional workplaces where you micromanage people, treat them as children and they also start acting like little kids.

[00:23:32]Yegor: So you probably believe, this theory of X and Y like X, Y theory which says that black managers understand people as either lazy and incompetent people. Or the manager thinks that people are by definition are competent and motivated to grow and improve and so on and so forth. So which one is yours, what’s your theory?

[00:23:51]Pim: What do You think? (laughing) It’s pretty clear, it’s super clear. I, first of all I think what you believe will also be a reality. So if you believe people are behaving like children if you give them a little bit of freedom, they will start acting like that as well. But if you give people the trust, the responsibility and the freedom that you would give to proper responsible, sensible adults, they will also act like that. So I think it’s a matter of how you treat people and they will treat you similarly. And I think that’s the thing that we often overlook in companies.

[00:24:32]Yegor: In your blog, in your website I found on a chapter about secrecy in organization. And I think it’s kind of relevant to what we’re discussing right now. So what about secrecy, what about the problem of actually sharing information among, inside the organization. Because organizations actually fight against each other and especially right now, big companies they hide a lot of things, they hide things inside the company as well. So how are we gonna deal with that if we go your way?

[00:25:00]Pim: Yeah, this is a tricky subject. But I think it is a super important element underlying many of the trends and the things we talk about. If you want people to make the right decisions, if you want to see them as entrepreneurs and responsible adults, you should also be giving them more information than most organizations currently are. So many things are hidden from lots of people and is only available to management or top of an organization because they feel it’s not important to share. Or they feel that they wanna keep the knowledge and therefore also the power over other people in the organization or that people can be trusted with some kinds of information. But we actually see that if organizations are more transparent in giving out lots of information within their company, then they will benefit from that in the long run.

And that, let me give you some practical examples. So for example, opening up the performance of every team in the organization. Nowadays, in many organizations they’re as vague as you can imagine. Teams, it’s mostly unclear how teams are performing compared to one another. Some managers know from different teams in the organization but for example, there’s not a clear overview of the best performing teams and the underperforming teams or how you as a team compared to the average of an organization. Having this transparency creates kind of gamification effect for people, for teams that they want to become better at what they do because for example, they see that they are underperforming compared to the rest of the organization. Or if they are performing well, we see actually that these teams start to support others in the organization to become better as well. So that’s transparency in terms of performance, but you can also think of transparency in terms of company financials. So giving much more openness around the revenues, the various cost levels, the profit levels of the organization or maybe even parts of the organization. So people can actually have a feeling for how they are performing also in financial terms and then see how they can adjust and make specific decisions to improve the results, the financial results of the company. So you really bring people in as entrepreneurs and as owners who you give information that they can then act upon and make their decisions upon. Sometimes companies go even further and they give full salary transparency saying that they want, don’t wanna hide anything from people. That’s they wanna support and facilitate the organization and the people to do their best possible work. And in order to do that, they also wanna be transparent around salaries, so people can just see whoever in the organization it is, they can see what that person is actually earning. So I know it’s sometimes quite radical and I’m not saying it always works, but at least giving some elements of transparency is vitally important to really bring people into the organization.

[00:27:56]Yegor: Have You ever seen a real example of a company which actually discloses this information, financial information?

[00:28:02]Pim: Yep, quite a lot actually.

[00:28:05]Yegor: So all people, they know how much money the next person sitting to them is making?

[00:28:09]Pim: Yup.

[00:28:10]Yegor: Well, that’s nice. But I can tell you what this managers in large corporations will tell you if you suggest that the team’s performance, the results of each team have to be publicly available and disclosed and disclose to very detail. Because usually what they do in large organizations, they just tell you like you are working in the team A and they tell you that by the end of the year, the team B is achieved great results. And you just have to buy it, just great results. Nobody gonna tell you exactly what are the great results like down to the detail level and really allow you to compare to yourself with the numbers and kind of prove to you that the result was great. They will just tell you that the team B was great and that’s it, take it to leave it. So if you come to them and say, “No, I would like to see the full disclosure about exactly what are the metrics,” “how you measure the performance of our team versus that team.””” They will tell you that this is actually a competition which we don’t like. So we don’t want you to compete against another team because it’s create jealousy, it’s against negative, it creates negativity in the ecosystem and the environment where you work and so on and so forth. So they just tell you that trust us, this team is better and your team will be better next year that’s gonna be the answer.

[00:29:22]Pim: Yeah, so it will be a pretty shitty answer I’d say. I think it’s about once again trusting people to make their own decisions and to be able to act as responsible adults when you give them some certain kinds of information. And yes, I can understand the assumption that it might be turning into too much competition. And I think it’s important for companies to understand, to what extent they want competition in their organization and to what extent they want just collaboration and no competition. You could see it as a kind of a spectrum where you can be fully competitive as if you were separate companies competing for resources. Or you could be entirely collaborative where you work together to achieve something that you’re all enthusiastic about. For example, the case I mentioned about Hire with it’s lots of micro enterprises, they are more on the competing side. So various HR micro enterprises are competing with one another for resources and for new projects and for new customers. And the other end of the spectrum, you have Buurtzorg, the healthcare organization where the teams are not competing against each other. They’re helping each other to be more successful so they as an organization provide better healthcare. And it’s about the decisions, the design decisions you make in your organization, how much competition you will get or how much collaboration you will get. And you can of course also be somewhere in between of those extremes. And it’s about for organizations it’s important to not just simply copy paste what they’re seeing in other inspiring organizations, but it’s about making their own conscious decisions about what type of environment they want to be. And then to start changing some of the structures and the processes in order for the right environment and the right culture to arise from it.

[00:31:20]Yegor: It seems like you’re on both sides of this extremes. So you were saying that the collaboration is great and at the same time you were saying that competition is great. So you want the full disclosure of performance information, but at the same time you’ve given me the example of these organizations with nurses where we have collaboration. So where exactly are you, what do you want is the right way?

[00:31:38]Pim: I don’t believe there’s a right way. And I think it’s important to understand, like the, what I think is the right way or more the, about the underlying principles. And they are the same in these two organizations as extremely different as they are. For example, the transparency it’s both in Hire and in Buurtzorg, very present. Also the teams in Buurtzorg can assess their performance compared to the average of the organization. But there are other elements in place that keep them from competing against each other. For example, the fact that they’re just specifically focused on one neighborhood and another team is responsible for another neighborhood. So it’s very clear that they are not competing with one another. So I think the underlying principles are very similar, even in these different situations. So we’re talking about that freedom, the autonomy, the transparency, the fact that these organizations are much more purposeful. And that reducing the hierarchy so people actually get more authority and decision-making power to make their own decisions. So within those organizations, there’s not a right approach there’s not the best approach. I think it depends heavily on the type of organization you are, the type of organization you want to be, what kind of sector you’re in, what kind of culture you’re in. So the underlying themes might be the same, but the application can be very different in different types of organization.

And we should also realize that, well, people in generally want the same things in order to be motivated. In the end people are also looking for different things, one person is more about a competitive work environment and another is more about a collaborative work environment. And it’s not up to us, it’s up to me to tell those people to work according to this one fixed model. I think it’s much more about figuring out what works for your organization and for the type of environment that you’re working in.

[00:33:37]Yegor: That’s interesting, let me give you a practical example from my personal experience. There is a team of people, let’s say 40 people there and you decide being not, let’s not say the manager but being part of this team, that you decided that competitiveness is actually the right, not the right but proper way to go right now. And you design a performance indicators or performance management system there in the team and you make an agreement with the key members of the team, like the most important, the most skillful, the most experienced people there. That this competitiveness is probably is gonna help us to achieve better results. But you still have part of the team which disagree with you, which don’t actually support that competitiveness. In most cases, these people are not the best performers, they are not expecting to become best performers but at the same time, they don’t want to be, to stay outside of the main stream of what the group is doing. So they want to be part of the group but they feel that this competitiveness is gonna kind of eject them to the side of the road because they cannot run as fast as the core part of the team. And they start complaining about that, but they don’t complain about their position outside of the team, outside of the group. They complain about the whole idea of competitiveness, and just say, “This idea is wrong, so stop using that.” We need, like you said collaboration, so we don’t, remove just performance indicators, remove this measurement system just let’s work without any measurements. So what do you do in this case, what would you do?

[00:35:03]Pim: I think That The starting point in your example is already wrong. I think it starts with having a conversation with people around what it is that they are missing and what are the things that they would like to change in the way that organization works. And if there’s a majority of people wanting a specific thing in their work and if you want to create an organization like that together with your people, I think that’s should be the starting point of making a transformation. In the end, if there are people in the organization that are not willing to make the transformation, it’s up to them to make a decision on this. But if the vast majority of the company wants to transform into a certain direction, I think it should start with the people that actually want to make a transformation like this. See and to start experimenting with them, start developing these new type of organization and then see how other people are jumping on board. ‘Cause this is what we’re seeing mostly in these transformations that they start with the people most interested to change and there’s always of course, also a lot of people that don’t wanna change which is perfectly fine. Just leave them be for now and focus on the people that are actually inspired to change. Once you get it going and once you create a type of environments that most people flourish in, it’s about giving those people the opportunity to either jump on board or to leave the organization. Or if you are okay with that, to leave them in the organization, but working in a different way. So there’s companies who do this too, they have different parts of the organization working in different ways depending on the stuff that they do for their customers, but also depending on the people that work there. And other organizations want more one unified way of working and give people the opportunity to either jump on board of the change or leave the organization.

[00:36:54]Yegor: Yeah, it sounds like a plan but for large companies it’s not really possible. Okay, we’re talking against them, but it’s not possible in large companies because you cannot easily get rid of, I mean, part of the teams so fast, you need to find a way how to work with them together. But my question is more now about this performance management and I can tell you again, another example. That in large corporations, usually they just, the employees like regular people, we talk mostly about programmers here, software engineers. But they work for some time and then the end of the year, the manager comes and says, “Your performance results for this year is this.” And then you get the number, you get some marks, something like that. And then according to this number you get the bonus, like your annual bonus and that’s it. How are the numbers generated, what exactly is there, like why the decision is made this way? Usually not so much information is disclosed. So I think you’re against this, but how would you, what would you replace it with?

[00:37:47]Pim: With peer-to-peer feedback and much more on an ongoing basis. I think it’s a stupid thing to work for an entire year and then to, at the end of the year be kind of judged by a manager who has one single perspective on your performance and then your entire career almost depends on that. I think that doesn’t make any sense because the people you work most with so your direct colleagues or your customers are the ones who are much better able to give you the right feedback. And I think it’s also doesn’t make any sense to do it on a yearly basis. Why not have a monthly or quarterly conversation around people’s performance. So you can actually change the things that are not working and you can be much more focused on things that are going well or wrong while they are happening. Then there’s this yearly rhythm.

I think nowadays the yearly rhythm, we’ve seen some organizations it’s already transferred to six monthly or quarterly rhythm. I think we should reduce that even further, that timeline to a moment where we almost give instant feedback. So if you’re doing a lousy interview with me now, a colleague of you should be saying right after the interview, Okay, Yegor, I really didn’t like this interview because of this and this” and I think our listeners won’t love it because of this and that. And then you can have a proper discussion around your performance and how to improve things so you can do it better next time. If you wait for a year and then bring up this conversation in your performance review, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, you don’t feel what it’s about. You don’t, you cannot change it for a year, you have to keep all your criticism until that specific moment in time. It’s not easy because you have to give people more direct feedback but it’s much better for the people and for the organization because you’re constantly working together to become better at what you do.

[00:39:42]Yegor: But why these large organizations they do it this way. They’re not stupid I guess like, well, they are doing it for years. So there should be a reason for that.

[00:39:49]Pim: Well, that’s mostly the assumption why we keep doing stupid things. We’ve been doing it for decades, so why not continue doing it. And I think it’s, so the assumption you’re making, I think so many people are doing that. If we enter our organization and we see the way meetings are run, we see the way that people communicate with each other or the way that decisions are made. We just assume that it’s probably thought of and that’s it’s probably a good way to do things, specifically like that. And I think the problem with this assumption is we start acting like a bunch of sheep and we just start copying other people’s behavior simply because we assume that it’s the best way to do it. And we assume that these people have thought through all of the things that we’re doing. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case.

[00:40:37]Yegor: What do You think about meetings by the way? You just said meetings, I feel that you’re not really happy about what’s going on in the meetings room now.

[00:40:44]Pim: No, it seems like I’m very unhappy person when it comes to a lot of things. (both laughing) Yeah, I think it’s the same for meetings, yeah.

[00:40:54]Yegor: What’s wrong with them?

[00:40:55]Pim: Remember from my corporate career, so before starting Corporate Rebels, I worked for a couple of years in a traditional organization where I build up all of the frustration that I can now share with you. So meetings where a similar thing, like we were in meetings for maybe 60, 70, 80% of the day. The higher up you were in the organization, the more meetings you had to attend. And there was just people talking all over the place. So just commenting and just thinking that they were saying smart things and then somebody else would add to that and adding more smart things in their opinion. And then we would all look at the person with the most senior profile and that will be the one making the decisions, which I think is a completely outdated way of doing things. And I think we should be doing, working much more asynchronously. So you do something in your time when you feel it’s the best time to do something. And then somebody else can either support you or follow through with that work when it’s their best time to work. I think meetings are mostly big waste of time, especially when it comes to specific topics.

If you look at for example, creative sessions, I think it’s great to sit together with a bunch of people in a room to come up with new ideas, to inspire one another, to think further and to be better at coming up with new concepts. But if you’re just there to make decisions or if you’re even worse, there’s boring status meetings that you have to go to every week or month to hear about projects that are none of your business to hear from, I think this is such a big waste of time. And we mostly do that to align managers for and to give them the information that they need. But why would everybody waste their time, their precious time in meetings to do things that can also be easily done remotely while people are not together physically at the same moment in time.

[00:42:56]Yegor: You know what they would tell you, if you suggest that for a large corporation, they would tell you that it’s so important to be in the same office. Because this is how we collaborate and create so-called synergy and that’s how we become a one team. But if you all go sit alone at your homes, at your apartments, then most probably you’re not gonna be united as a team and we care about teams, we don’t bet on individuals, we bet on teams. That’s the answer you’re gonna get.

[00:43:25]Pim: Yeah, partly I think, yes. I think at the same time, the last 12 to 14 months, people have learned a great deal. People have learned that their fear and their, the fact that they were scared to give people the opportunity to work from home was based on a lot of assumptions that have been proven wrong over the past 12 months. I think yes, to a certain degree you still want people to be together and you still want them to come together to come up with, as I’ve just mentioned for the more creative part of work. But if you want people to do more focused work, if you want them to really dive into specific content and work out some more expert things or more things that they really need some quality head space for. I think that it’s actually better to not have people sitting together and constantly interrupting each other in the office as they walk past a colleague’s desk.

And I think that’s what we learned over the past 12 months during the pandemic. Like there’s a lot of bad things happening because of the Corona virus, but there’s also a lot of things that we can learn from it. For example, so in terms of how we’re organizing work and the fact that apparently while we thought that for most jobs people had to be in the office every single day from nine to five, sitting behind their desk. We learned that maybe can also work and maybe it works even better in terms of both engagement and productivity if we give people a little bit more freedom to decide for themselves where they prefer to work. And I think that’s one of the beautiful things, kind of the side effects of this pandemic that many organizations should learn from. To think about how can we leverage this, how can we learn from the lessons that we’ve had to learn over the past 12 months. And how can we turn that into a new way of working moving forward. And that’s also why you see a lot of big companies making decisions now like the famous names like Spotify, like Facebook, like Twitter, Shopify. Where they making decisions already, that they’re not going back to the model where people have to come to the office from nine to five, but giving people more freedom to work from wherever they want. I think this is a good change that’s happening. And I think more companies should be open to embracing such changes.

[00:45:46]Yegor: Do you think it’s gonna eventually happen to all companies, it’s gonna become the de facto standard in the world or we will eventually get back to traditional model like we had before this pandemic situation?

[00:45:59]Pim: I am a bit biased, but I think more organizations will start to realize that this, the system that’s they’re mostly using at the moment isn’t working for them. And I hope that more organizations in the future will start adopting this. But I don’t have a crystal ball, I have no clue what the future will bring. And I once heard, which I think was quite a smart remark that if you wanna make a fool out of yourself, the easiest thing is trying to predict the future. So I’m not gonna do that, I hope it will be different in the future. And we’re doing everything we can at Corporate Rebels to facilitate such changes, but I’ve no clue what will actually happen.

[00:46:40]Yegor: And by the way, how we, I mean, we the listeners of this podcast, how we can help you with your initiative maybe you can tell us some steps. Because if people like what you’re doing, how they can contribute or help you?

[00:46:52]Pim: I think the current phase we’re in and if you look at organizations like these, there’s a group of pioneers who are doing it. So we visited about 120, 130 organizations around the world that are already doing things differently. What we’re doing is to create more awareness around how they work and around new ways of working. I think this is where every transformation starts, whether it’s in society or in workplaces. You need to kind of increase people’s awareness around alternative ways of working, to show why the current isn’t working and why the other alternative models might be working better. So it’s about creating awareness, people can do the same thing, sharing these stories, learning more about them, creating their own awareness, but also the awareness of people around them. Finding people that are inspired by this too, who wanna change their own workplace as well. And then setting up, the second thing to do is to set up experiments to start changing the way of working. So try some things here and there, try to give different feedback to each other, try to create a bit more transparency, try to distribute some of the decision-making in your team. And if you set up these experiments, you will fail a couple of times, you will succeed a couple of times, just ditch the things that you failed, that you failed and that are not working and build upon the things that are successful. And then slowly but surely you’ll find your way towards a better way of working and then bring more people in to jump on board of that movement. So it’s about creating more awareness, educating yourself, setting up experiments to change and then showing to people that it works better and then hopefully bring more people into that movement.

[00:48:32]Yegor: And What have they work in the large company, what did they do? Let’s say the person who is listening to us right now is a head of a small team of 10 people in a large organization, which is not working like we are discussing, we’re discussing right now, what this person has to do, can do.

[00:48:48]Pim: Yeah, so very easily to, easy to understand is the fact that they are not going to be able to change their organizational structure. They do not have the power to change the CEO into a person that is more supportive as a leader. So don’t focus on that kind of stuff, don’t focus on the things you cannot change. Focus on the things you can change within your team. Think about the way you make decisions in your team, the way you distribute roles and accountabilities in your team, the way you give feedback, the way you create transparency around performance, for example.

So all of these things you can influence within your team. If you don’t have the power, maybe you can go a bit under the radar for some time. Don’t tell anybody what you’re doing and then only open up once you’ve shown that it’s successful, but start changing those things that you can actually change. Once you are able to do that successfully and you can show the results to others, others will be inspired to jump on board. And we’ve seen this actually happening in such a way in a Dutch organization, it’s called Bol.com, it’s an eCommerce company employing about 2000 people. And the transformation started in one logistics team with 20 people starting to do things differently, running their meetings differently, changing their decision making process and changing the distribution of roles into team. So they started with 20 people, showed they had good results after a couple of experiments and then they were bringing more teams in to train them, to start doing the same thing. Nowadays, they’ve been able to transform more than 80% of the entire company and they’re constantly now changing the bigger things. So the person that was leading that logistics team is now the head of the ways of working of the company and is now able to change also the structure of the company. So it started very small as a bottom-up transformation because of their success they’ve been able to grow it and to change almost the entire organization into this new way of working.

[00:50:49]Yegor: This really is a success story and that it actually like inspires me first of all. But the question is, in order to go up from the bottom level, you probably will need some support from that higher levels. And these people will have to listen to you, will have to understand your achievements and will have to eventually agree that your method of managing, your method of work or your methods are actually better than what they do in other teams. So we do need to change a little bit the CEO, like you said, even though we cannot change that person completely, but some changes probably will have to happen, right?

[00:51:28]Pim: Yeah and The beauty is that the fact that is, like the responsibility of the CEO is to be successful as an organization. And if it’s a public company, they will be judged by their shareholders on the performance of the company. So they will be looking at the bottom line a lot, too much in my opinion but that doesn’t matter for this point. So they’re looking at the bottom line. If you can show that with your new way of working, what you do is actually more successful than what you were doing before, they’re the first ones, no, maybe not the first ones, but they would be eager to adapt and to listen to what you’re doing. And this is what we’ve seen at Bol.com. So they were just experimenting within their small team first, they had success to show for it because they were simply more productive and more successful when making these changes in their team. So then as a CEO, you would be a fool to say, “Well, I want you to stop doing this because I think we should just stick” to our traditional way of working. If you have a CEO that still thinks like that, I think should move a bit more under the radar and start changing more things so you’re even more successful and only then come out and talk about your new way of working and the benefits of it. Because I think that’s where it starts and the beauty of it is actually that most of these ways of working that are focused on giving people meaning, autonomy and mastery, people will actually be more successful. If people are more engaged, they will also be more successful in doing their job. So that’s the beauty of it, it works both ways. If you create more engagement in your team, you’ll probably also get better results and outcomes from what you’re doing. So that already is a good way to start trying to convince more people to jump on board.

[00:53:21]Yegor: My last question to you, under which circumstances you would recommend people to actually give up and quit the company and go find some other place of work?

[00:53:33]Pim: I’m not against that at all. So I think if you’re working in a company and you are trying to change things, or if you really feel that there’s not an option at all to make even the slightest changes, I think it’s better for you if you have the opportunity to ditch that job and start looking for something else. To start looking for a companies whose values are much more in line with yours. To start looking for a company that is doing something that you truly believe in. And if you feel that whatever you want to change is impossible in your organization. You’ve tried it a couple of times and it really doesn’t work or you’re immediately shut down by your superiors, I think it’s better to start looking for an environment where you are a much better fit. Where you actually love to be, love to contribute and love to support the change that you’re making. So I’m not against quitting your job to find some, find a job that’s more interesting. In fact, I’ve done it myself so it would be kind of hypocrite to start advising people otherwise. For me it went really well and I believe for many other people it will if they have an organization they can go to that is much more in line with their personal values.

[00:54:50]Yegor: All right, that’s quite positive attitude to this. So you don’t feel like you don’t want us people who work for companies feel like, be, feel complete loyalty to the company. So the company is the place which either go along with us or would just go separate ways, right?

[00:55:08]Pim: Yeah, I think that’s the beauty of organizations. If you live in a country and you wanna change the country, that’s tougher because saying, “Well, I don’t like this country I’ll just move to another.””” It’s possible but because of the connections you have and the feeling you have with your country, you have so much loyalty that you probably don’t wanna make that decision. But in terms of organizations, I think you shouldn’t stay loyal to a company that is not treating you well. It’s the same as with toxic relationships, if people are not treating you well, you get out of those relationships. And I think it’s the same for organizations, if you’re not in the right place, try to change it or if that’s not possible, leave it and find somewhere else where you’re a better fit with your environment.

[00:55:50]Yegor: All right, sounds great. Well, thanks for your time today, thanks for your answers. I’m sure that somebody will email you after this video and maybe we’ll kind of try to join your initiative ‘cause I think you’re doing really great, really interesting stuff. And I, we are on the same page with you that’s for sure.

[00:56:10]Pim: Yeah, thanks a lot, I enjoyed the talk.

[00:56:12]Yegor: All right, thank you, bye bye.

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