Zappos’ Holacracy: Would it Thrive in Bezocracy?
Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding
Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding (PCU) material is the background material that would aid immensely in mapping the decision areas of this case study and bring a synthesis amongst the relevant concepts. The participants/students should be encouraged to read this material to benefit from the broader perspectives outlined in the case study.
- 1. To understand the concept of organizational structure, organizational culture and self-managed work teams – Stephen P. Robbins, et al., “Understanding Work Teams”, “Foundations of Organization Structure” and “Organizational Culture”, Organizational Behavior, 12th edition, Pearson Education, 2007
- 2. To understand the process of organizational restructuring at Semco SA – Ricardo Semler, “Managing without Managers”, Harvard Business Review, September-October 1989
- 3. To understand Semco SA’s organizational structure – Kelly Killian, et al., “Ricardo Semler and Semco S.A.”, Thunderbird, 1998
- 4. To understand Nucor Corporation’s entrepreneurial organizational structure – Thomas M. Box and Warren D. Miller, “Nucor Corporation 2008-2009”, Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship 35th Annual Conference, 2008-2009
- 5. To anaylze the culture of working without managers at The Morning Star Company – Gary Hamel, “The Big Idea: First, Let’s Fire All the Managers”, Harvard Business Review, December 2011
- 6. To study the impact of national culture on work-related aspects – Herminia Ibarra, “National Cultures and Work-Related Values: The Hofstede Study”, Harvard Business School, January 31st 1996
This case study enables an engaging discussion on the concept of ‘holacracy’ or the culture of having self-managed teams at organizations. The case study focuses on the case of Zappos.com, the largest online shoe retailer that has decided to adopt holacracy and implement it completely by December 2014. How is holacracy different from the traditional tiered organizational structure? To have an indepth understanding of the concept of self-managed teams, the case study discusses the examples of Semco S.A., Nucor Corporation and The Morning Star Company that have been successful with self-managed teams. It, however, questions if self-management can be successful in various settings. Will self-management prove to be successful across cultures, industries and variously sized organizations? This case study also helps identify a relationship between organizational structure, organizational culture and decision-making.
Expected Learning Outcomes
- • Zappos’ proposed model of organizational realignment – from hierarchical organization to having self-managed teams
- • Comparison of the traditional tiered organizational structure with self-managed and title-less organizational structure in the light of Semco’s, Nucor’s and Morning Star’s experiments
- • The relationship between organizational structure, organizational culture and organizational performance
Positioning and Setting
This case study can be used in the Organizational Behavior course to teach the following concepts:
- • Self-managed work teams
- • Organization structure
- • Organizational culture
Before the Classroom Discussion
- • The participants were asked to read the articles given as PCUs
- • They were also asked to visit the websites of Semco, Nucor, The Morning Star Company, Zappos and HolacracyOne to get acquainted with the companies and the concept being discussed