I had another epiphany this week! love it when that happens.  Shane and I think we were pretty evolved as employers, I have blogged on this before, we also know we are a long way from our nirvana (which is best encapsulated by Valve) so we are constantly looking for ways to step it up and improve our culture driven wee company.

I was lucky enough this week to meet Nathan from Boost New Media and discovered there is yet another step in the evolution of an organization – the democratic company.

Wow! what a concept – perhaps this is where we are actually trying to go without realising it? So away I went searching the internet and I found this awesome article Seven Rules of a democratic company. It mentions two of the great local organizations I have met recently – Boost New Media (Nathan who introduced me to the concept) and Enspiral Josh from Rabid took me on a tour and told me about their philosophy beyond that of just a collaborative workspace.

Here are the 7 rules from the article:

1. Transparency
The first is Transparency – of information, financials, agenda and strategy. This results in smarter decisions throughout the company – open book management, and even open salary information. The simple reality is that high transparency results in a high trust culture.

2. Dialogue + Listening
Instead of the top-down monologue or dysfunctional silence that characterizes most work places, democratic organizations are committed to having conversations that bring out new levels of meaning and connection. This means democratic organizations design tools for engagement and processes for people to participate. No more meetings where people put up with rubbish behaviour from a team member on the one hand, or on the other are silenced by a manager throwing their power around.

3. Accountability
Democratic organizations point fingers, not in a blaming way but in a liberating way. They are crystal clear about who is accountable to whom and for what. Where there are no secrets about accountability or performance, everyone is able to both take responsibility and to hold each other to account when things are not done or not done right.

4. Individual + Collective
In democratic organizations, the individual is just as important as the whole, meaning employees are valued for their individual contribution as well as for what they do to help achieve the collective goals of the organization.

5. Choice
Democratic organizations thrive on giving employees meaningful choices. This might be in projects they are engaged with, or flexible hours or working some hours from home. Choices add up to people feeling valued and working in ways that deliver for the company.

6. Integrity
Integrity is the name of the game, and democratic companies have a lot of it. They understand that freedom takes discipline and also doing what is morally and ethically right is a line every business walks. In a democratic company, this line will be transparent and will be regularly contested by people with different views within the agency.

7. Decentralization
Democratic organizations make sure power is appropriately shared and distributed among people throughout the organization. Distribution of power includes decision making, resources allocation and mandate.

Some of these “rules” could be quite affronting to the average business owner or the average employee. Full accountability by both parties, full disclosure – can you imagine a company where your wonderful team held a cognizant understanding the raw cost structure of your organization? the true value of their contribution to the bottom line? and your team shared the responsibility of setting salaries? or realizing tangible benefits of investment in their personal development? collective accountability for all decisions, strategy and direction – instead of it feeling like pulling teeth when seeking input from the team? wow.

Mind blowing but an awesome goal to aspire towards.

I could go on and on and am very happy to admit this is my top of mind world of imagination, but this idea is really taking hold. It would be a long journey to move any business through the democratization process, it would be hard work, some people could feel exposed or feel weary and leave as a result but others would embrace the opportunity, be invigorated by it and step up – that would be awesome. Some business owners who aren’t naturally collaborators or open would be scared by this. Nathan I am impressed you and your team have followed this path and had such a successful outcome! Congratulations.

So reader – what do you think? would this work for your business? or employer? is there a hybrid approach? I would love feedback on the concept! challenge my current love for the idea or share examples in other organizations who have embraced these rules. Vic.

Here are some of the sites I have visited when researching this blog:

http://worldblu.com/democratic-design/

http://www.slideshare.net/tomnixon/organisational-democracy-wellbeing

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB117729012338178557

http://www.startupnation.com/articles/the-5-advantages-of-a-democratic-workplace/

http://tomnixon.co.uk/2012/03/08/does-organisational-democracy-scale/

And Just because Shane and I are slightly crazy on occasion:

shane and vic