Munich, 23 November 2021. Self-organization is the buzzword in today’s working world. Many companies are redesigning organizational structures accordingly. But there are also many myths and pitfalls that it entails – and not everything is as simple in practice as the theory promises. Holger Teske, Co-founder and CEO of the Gini GmbH, a leading company for AI-based data extraction and known for the photo payment, has implemented an innovative New Work concept for its employees, which also integrates the aspect of self-organization, and explains – from its own experience – the stumbling blocks and challenges.
1. Leadership and managers are no longer needed
The theory: All employees are equal and know exactly what they have to do. Leadership positions do not have to be filled.
The experience from practice: A wonderful idea that does not work in everyday life. Because leadership should not only be thought of in terms of hierarchies, but should be seen as a supporting and promoting function that provides guidance. This aspect is particularly important because without certain organizational, strategic, operational and also professional guidelines, self-organization is doomed to fail. The old style of leading, i.e. controlling and instructing, has had its day. It needs a new kind of leadership.
2. Happy employees in total harmony
The theory: Self-organization automatically leads to happy employees who, united in the greatest harmony, successfully move the company forward.
The practice shows: That would be a perfect scenario for any entrepreneur, but in reality doesn’t work out. Self-organization that enables participation and democratization in a company requires much more coordination and collaboration in order to reach a consensus. Conflicts, which are often also carried out openly, are pre-programmed and part of the process. However, this depends decisively on the ability of each individual to deal with a conflict. It is important to train employees in their ability to deal with conflicts so that the potential of conflicts can be used and it does not end in egalitarianism.
3. Everything is regulated automatically
The theory: Processes and structures are unnecessary because all employees intuitively know what to do and enjoy the freedom and autonomy they have always desired.
But: Effective self-organization does not always take shape on its own. Rules and processes are needed to align the concept with individual organizations in a target-oriented manner. They have to be understood and internalised by everyone in the company. The system certainly looks a little different than in classic hierarchical structures, but requires more awareness, training, and constant reminders among all members about the reason why a company chooses this concept.
4. Business processes are accelerated
The theory: If a company is too slow in making decisions and progress, then self-organization is the right step to move forward. The processes will be much faster, because everyone knows exactly what they have to do.
The practice shows: Precisely because much more coordination and effective communication is needed between the individual teams and members, for example, to make consensus decisions, self-organization is not necessarily faster. On the other hand, the decisions of employees are better accepted and ideally even anticipated.
5. There is an entrepreneur in every human being
The theory: With self-organization, every team member becomes an entrepreneur at once. Everyone who has ever wanted to be his/her own boss can now become one. The advantage: All will act in the interest of the company, and develop and execute strategic, organizational and other relevant aspects on their own.
However: Due to the high degree of autonomy within a self-organization, it requires much more entrepreneurial thinking from all employees in many places. But it is also true that people are different in character and have different interests and talents. Not everyone would like to or is able to take on all the responsibility or certain professional content. A lot of autonomy can therefore be overwhelming for some and not every person is ready to make the effort involved. In a successful company that relies on self-organization, this must also be respected and a way of dealing with it must be found so that employees benefit individually.
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