Yesterday I was the founder and sole “beneficial owner” of Agilesphere, today Agilesphere is a mutual owned and controlled by its members. I’m now one of the three CxOs and we’re in discussion with a dozen more like minded folk.
So why do we think this is the right thing to do for us as individuals and Agilesphere as an organisation?
The move to a mutual model stems from our vision of Agilesphere as a completely Agile organisation and when you think deeply about applying Agile to an organisation (rather than just a project or programme) anything other than a mutual model lacks authenticity.
The unit of delivery is the team
In Agile “the unit of delivery is the team” i.e. all team members have different roles to play, all roles are necessary for success and we succeed (or fail) together. This is the basis for all high performing teams, the “holy grail” of 21st century business organisation.
In Agile it is wrong for only one team member, even a clear and acknowledged leader, to be the only person recognised and rewarded because they could not have succeeded without everyone else’s contributions. Team based recognition schemes, including compensation in some cases, are being implemented in many aspirational Agile organisations.
The real challenge is making this really meaningful and authentic otherwise it lapses into tokenism and fuels cynicism.
All Agilesphere members share the profits of the business. Rewards are meaningful, fair and meritocratic but not equal because, for example, some people take on more responsibility or commercial risk than others. Other employee owned mutuals, including John Lewis, have similar philosophies.
I fully expect some Agilesphere members to earn more out of the business that I do in the years to come.
Agile culture is also about empowering teams of people to deliver value.
What higher level of empowerment is there than making everyone an “owner” of the business and giving them a voice (vote) in all the key decisions?
Empowered teams enable the organisation to adapt to changes in the market and grasp new opportunities quickly. While there has to be some standards (and legal controls) these standards are agreed (and iterated) as a community and so there is immediate understanding of why they are there and buy in to their implementation.
As an example one of our key standards is “there is no such thing as a loss leader” i.e. we must make a margin on every contract. There are also looser, more cultural, standards e.g. we do Agile “properly” and this prompts a dialogue about what this means in the specific scenario we are focussing on.
A learning organisation
The Agile philosophy is for constant feedback and learning. If everyone has stake in the organisation then they own part of the intellectual property of the organisation.
This enables and encourages a culture of people learning from each other and everyone benefits.
Value in the knowledge economy comes from people sharing ideas and then acting on them. I believe that a community of Agilists is potentially the most powerful economic force on the planet.
Our business is a people business plain and simple.
If we are authentic about Agile in all aspects of what we do and are, then we will attract the best Agile people.
If we give these people a stake in the business they are likely to stay loyal and help us build the business.
People are more likely to look for work for other people in the business because they know they will be rewarded for it.