The bottom-up approach

From the day we decided to become a flat organisation, we have had to experience its greatness and of course its flaws. The truth of the matter is that one of its greatest challenges is decision-making, so I will now demonstrate how we are trying to deal with this and what we've experienced so far.

The mantra of decision-making is: not every problem is a big problem. We needed to realize this because we tried to tackle every problem via a meeting or a discussion. This means that in the past we held meetings basically for everything, from areas like improving internal communication and setting company-wide goals, to dealing with office interior design or replacing our coffee machine. Not only were we overwhelmed by this, but, more importantly, we often failed to reach a conclusion.

So we took the bottom-up approach.

Mantra no.2: we can do things instantly. So we were struggling to upgrade internal communication from emailing. We talked about it, but nothing happened as not all were convinced that emails needed to be replaced. We took no steps forward.

We left this topic alone until one of us started to pitch HipChat to us. He just started to use the platform and was instantly followed by others. It spread so successfully that even people who had been OK with emails are using it in now. No rules were created, no meetings were held; somebody just took the initiative and started using a more suitable means of communication..

The same thing happened to our dashboard. We were inspired by different blog posts to display info like JIRA tickets or weather-forecasts in a common place so everybody can be up-to-date. We have created a display from an office-PC and are still testing whether or not this worked for us. Nobody held a boring meeting, it just happened.

Not for everything

Of course, we are still experimenting with this approach - as with everything else in a flat organisation. I believe we can continue to use the bottom-up approach as long as there are no personal injuries; if someone has a valid argument against a move, we can just shut it down. For example, one day we found tables in our office reorganized in a way that was not satisfactory for everyone. We returned 2 or 3 tables to their original place, and everyone was happy.

All in all, the bottom-up approach is not applicable to everything. Certain issues, like company goals require conscious decisions made together, and yes, we'll have a meeting for those. But we have to realize not everything must be talked through beforehand, and unless someone has reservations, we can push through ideas and improvements in this manner..