Some organizations, such as Zappos, these days are shifting to a “Holacracy,” an operating structure that eliminates as much management as acceptable and puts staff in individual leadership roles that require self-governance.
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By Lorri Freifeld

My husband and I were in a big-box retailer last month purchasing yet another topiary tree for our front yard (my husband is known as the “Edward Scissorhands” of our block when it comes to trimming greenery). The seven-foot tree wouldn’t fit in our car, so we asked the salesman who was helping us if we could pay for the tree that night, have it put aside, and have a local landscaper pick it up and deliver it to us a day-and-a-half later. The salesman said that wouldn’t be a problem and walked us over to Customer Service to ring up the order.

However, the rep manning the Customer Service desk took one look at the “will call” ticket and said, “We don’t do ‘will call’ for plants or trees. If we put the tree aside for you, it won’t get watered, and it will die.”

We had gotten about two inches of rain earlier that day, so I said: “You can’t just dump a bucket of water on it tomorrow? The guy will be here the following morning.”

The rep just kept shaking his head. “No, we can’t do that.”

My husband and I looked at each other and said in unison, “We’d like to speak with the manager, please.”

I bet most of us have said those words on more than one occasion (on this particular occasion, the manager came over and instructed the rep to make the sale and alerted the garden center to make sure our tree was watered the next day). But what if there were no manager?

Some organizations, such as Zappos, these days are shifting to a “Holacracy,” an operating structure that eliminates as much management as acceptable and puts staff in individual leadership roles that require self-governance. Other companies are evolving into collaboration-oriented cultures that place less emphasis on hierarchy. As managerial roles change, organizations must train employees to adopt new mindsets and ways of working together. See “Who’s the Boss?” to find out how four Training Top 125 organizations are meeting this challenge.

Annual performance reviews are another workplace bedrock that seems to be crumbling. In recent years, 6 percent of Fortune 500 companies—including Microsoft and Accenture—have done away with annual performance reviews entirely, according to management research firm CEB. Instead, some companies are focusing on frequent, two-way feedback; continuous learning; and self-performance assessment. This topic clearly struck a nerve as I was inundated with requests to write sidebars to accompany this feature article. Read “Annual Review Under Review” for case studies, best practices, expert advice, and no less than six sidebars on the topic.

The trends article in the ISA Directory continues the theme of how Learning and Development professionals can help employees grow in their careers and thrive in today’s chaotic environment. For more information on members of ISA-The Association of Learning Providers, see the directory listings.

Best wishes for a wonderful and relaxing summer. I hope to see you in person this fall in Chicago at our Online Learning Conference September 20-22. To register, visit www.onlinelearningconference.com.

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