A Goodbye to Bosses at Zappos

manager exitIn a matter of days, Zappos will officially say so long to hierarchy, and say hello to Holacracy.

As of April 30, “people managers” will be a thing of the past for the Las Vegas-based online shoe and clothing retailer, according to a recent memo sent from CEO Tony Hsieh to all Zappos employees.

In that same memo, Hsieh outlines the Holacracy system, which he says removes traditional managerial pecking orders, allowing employees to self-organize “to complete work in a way that increases productivity, fosters innovation and empowers anyone in the company with the ability to make decisions that push the company forward.”

Hsieh also lamented not making “fast enough progress toward self-management, self-organization and more efficient structures to run our business,” announcing that Zappos would be taking a “rip the Band-Aid approach” to accelerating the full implementation of Holacracy, a concept the company first adopted in 2013.

Over the next few months, Hsieh plans to minimize service provider groups and lean more toward creating “self-organizing and self-managing business-centric groups,” and will begin the process of breaking down the organization’s silo-like structure of merchandising, finance, marketing and other functions.

All that said, the company will still have room for those who are giving up their manager positions, says Hsieh, who acknowledged the “absolutely necessary and valuable” role these leaders have played in aiding Zappos’ growth to this point.

He also expressed his eagerness to see “what new exciting contributions will come from the employees who were previously managers,” noting that these soon-to-be former supervisors will have opportunities to find new roles within Zappos “that might be a good match for their passions, skills and experience.”

In addition, all former managers who remain in good standing will keep their salaries through the end of 2015, “even though their day-to-day work that formerly involved more traditional management will need to change,” according to the memo.

It’s fair to say that adopting this kind of model is unorthodox. But it becomes a much less unusual move when you consider who’s making it.

This is, after all, the same organization that eliminated traditional online job postings and created Zappos Insiders, a social network where job seekers can sign up to schmooze with the company’s employees, participate in contests and chat directly with recruiters.

And, Zappos has famously offered workers financial incentives to leave the company, as a way to ferret out those who were sticking around strictly for the paycheck.

While Hsieh and Zappos have often been lauded for flouting the conventional, other firms have largely avoided following the company out on such limbs.

The Holacracy concept does have its proponents, however, with Twitter co-founder Evan Williams implementing the system at his new company, Medium, for instance. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey did the same at non-profit Conscious Capitalism Inc.

It’s not easy to envision that list getting significantly longer anytime soon. But, as was the case with telecommuting, dress-down Fridays and every other workplace development that once seemed like a radical idea, someone had to be the first to try it.