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Zappos Holacracy and When It’s a Good Thing For People to Leave

May 11, 2015



In a recent Fast Company article on the latest update on Zappo’s and its foray into holacracy it was stated that 14% of its staff are leaving. The article itself begins to sound alarmist until you read on and recognize that once again CEO Tony Hsieh has shown ‘evolutionary’ leadership by providing an option for people to stay with the new direction or to opt themselves out.


When the decision was made for Zappos to adopt the holacracy approach it was a big one – I wrote in an earlier blog in August 2014 that before ANY company can get to a full out holacracy adoption there is a ‘bridge’ that needs to be built in order to get there. That bridge includes getting the entire company on board and with complete ‘buy in’ to the new way forward of being conscious, sharing responsibility and empowering teams to create solutions collaboratively.

The truth is that when an organization initiates a major cultural change there will be a percentage who will not want to participate with the new structure. This is not a bad thing its a necessary phase in the change cycle and good on Tony Hsieh to empower his employees to ‘self select’ whether they are ‘in’ or they are ‘out’.

In providing this option to the people he has up leveled the accountability to another level. Those who choose to stay and participate are indicating that they are ‘all in’ and ready to go to the distance. Those who choose to leave take with them any energy that was not committed to the future and vision of where the company is heading. And good on THE EMPLOYEES themselves for knowing what they are willing and not willing to do within a company structure.

In my soon to be released book (Fall 2015) The Art of Change Leadership – Driving Transformation in a Fast Paced World

I provide other examples of the evolutionary leadership required to move companies towards ‘shared leadership’ models. My research has shown that this is the way forward for businesses : to empower their leaders and teams to increase agility, adaptability and innovation. In order to do this the entire company structures and systems need to be re-evaluated and questions such as, “do our systems support the changes we wish to make?” must be asked and answered daily.

Zappos is leading the charge as it relates to transforming culture and adoption methodologies to do so AND they are going the distance by ensuring that those who stay with the company are there because they believe in the vision and the future of what holacracy like models can do for the benefit of the employees and ultimately the customers.

When you have teams with the energy of combined commitment the natural outcome is increased energy for collaboration and innovation- exactly the skills needed to drive business forward.



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