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What Can Pirate                                                                                                                                   Values Bind
Crews Teach                                                                                                                                         WorldBlu
About Workplace                                                                                                                                   Community
Democracy?... page 3                                                                                                                                ... page 3

 JUNE 2010 • axiomnews.ca                                         special edition • workplace democracy


WorldBlu Shifts Goal to Reach                                                                       How Does Zappos Operate as
                                                                                                    a Democratic Workplace?
1 Billion People                                                                                    Cruise ship captain describes key democratic
                                                                                                    features of online retailer
2010 List of Most Democratic Workplaces a fulfilling ‘proof of concept’                             By Michelle Strutzenberger        says Jamie Naughton, whose
By Jennifer Higgs                — from a business stand-                                           When the decision was             role as “cruise ship captain”
WorldBlu, a company              point we know there is a                                           made to formalize the core        involves managing many of
specializing in workplace        bottom line impact to the                                          values of the online retailer     the culture extras for which
democracy, has shifted its       business, from the social                                          Zappos, every one of the          Zappos has become known,
goal from seeing the creation    standpoint . . . you are                                           company’s approximately           such as employee recognition
of 20,000 democratic work-       going to have people who                                           1,800 employees was asked         programs, parties and events.
places by 2020 to reaching 1     are happier, you are going                                         for their input on what              She refers to this situation
billion people employed in a     to have people who are                                             those values should be.           as an example of how the
democratic workplace during      healthier because they are                                            “For us, it was important      company’s commitment to
founder and CEO Traci            happier at work,” she says.                                        that our employees had a say      the principles of organiza-
Fenton’s lifetime.                 Fenton points to research                                        in our core values since we       tional democracy shapes what
   “We have a huge goal          from the Gallup Organization                                       were going to require them to     happens in the workplace.
before us but I really think     that shows a correlation be-                                       live and breathe those values,”               See ‘Zappos’ page 2
it’s possible,” says Fenton,     tween increased engagement       Traci Fenton
adding she hopes she has a       at work and health. When
“nice, long life.”
   She says rather than having
                                 people are happier at work
                                 they are likely to be more
                                                                  60,000 employees worldwide
                                                                  and more than $4 billion
                                                                                                    HCL Adopts Workplace Democracy,
20,000 companies that could
have five people in each
                                 engaged in their communities,
                                 be better parents and better
                                                                  in annual revenue. The
                                                                  company has double the
                                                                                                    Grows 21% Year Over Year
the goal has shifted to focus    citizens, she notes.             number of employees
                                                                                                    CEO says changing the ‘how’ a major
on the number of people            “There is that ripple effect   compared to the next largest      strategic advantage
impacted through working         of working this way that’s       on the WorldBlu List.             By Camille Jensen                    The Noida, India-based
at a democratic company.         hard to quantify but you           Fenton says HCL Technol-        Five years ago HCL                company is a first-time win-
   “When you create an           certainly feel it when it’s      ogies is a fulfilling “proof of   Technologies was looking          ner and the largest organiza-
environment in which             not there,” says Fenton.         concept” that organizational      for a way to climb the            tion to be awarded a spot on
people can feel valued and         This year 44 organizations     democracy does work in all        ladder of success.                the WorldBlu List of Most
feel a sense of self-worth,      won a spot on WorldBlu’s         sizes of companies.                  The firm was not at the        Democratic Workplaces.
they’re not invisible, that      annual Most Democratic             “This is not some sort of       top of its field and realized        According to HCL
sense of self-esteem and         Workplaces List, recognizing     idealistic manifesto for how      the need for a new approach       CEO Vineet Nayar,
self-worth and value and         companies for their organiza-    to run a business. This is        to create a sustainable,          workplace democracy is a
importance does impact the       tional democracy practices.      what the leading companies        competitive advantage.            necessary change because
global community,” she says.       Among the winners is           in the world are choosing         That’s when the company           the command-and-control
   “I think that’s why we        HCL Technologies based           as their core operating           discovered its “blue-ocean        model simply doesn’t work
want to focus on the people      in Noida, India, with nearly     system,” she says.                thinking” that would begin        in a knowledge economy.
                                                                                                    its transformation —                 “In a manufacturing setup
                                                                                                    workplace democracy.                       See ‘Employees’ page 2

Workplace Democracy Transforms                                                                      Namasté Solar Commits to
Future Considerations                                                                               Democratic Model
Consulting firm sets clear vision, mission, values, creates constitution                            ‘It’s the only way to do business’
By Camille Jensen                journey. For example, in         decided to hold a five-day        By Jennifer Higgs                 competition in the market
Workplace democracy has          2009 the company applied         all-hands company meeting.        Namasté Solar CEO Blake           with many companies
played an instrumental           for the WorldBlu List, but       Titles were dropped and all       Jones still gets goosebumps       planning to expand with a
role in strengthening            did not make the cut.            staff members sat in a circle     when thinking about a             “bigger is better” mentality.
the practices, culture             According to Shaw,             to “hash-out the issues”          transformative decision              Meanwhile Namasté
and vision of U.K.-based         the company realized             before moving forward.            the company went through          Solar employees were
consulting firm Future           the need to make the move           The process that involved      two summers ago.                  getting burnt out. Jones says
Considerations, says senior      to workplace democracy           frank, honest discussions           With the solar industry         there was the desire to slow
consultant James Shaw.           while facing major               took courage and resulted         quickly growing despite an        down growth and continue
  While the firm won a            challenges, including           in some staff members             economic recession, the 100       its democratic, employee-
spot on the 2010 WorldBlu        internal conflict, low           choosing to leave, but            per cent employee-owned           owned model without
List of Most Democratic          morale and falling revenue.      the result was Future             company was getting a lot         external investment.
Workplaces, the move               Instead of pursuing            Considerations deciding           of calls from interested          Becoming a “perfect storm”
to practising workplace          growth to quell the crisis,      to radically transform itself     investors. At the time,           situation, the company held
democracy has been a             Shaw says the company                    See ‘Reversing’ page 4    Jones recalls seeing more                 See ‘Democracy’ page 2
Zappos Culture Focuses on                                          Employees First, Customers Second
Transparency                                                       Continued from front
                                                                   the value was fully being
Continued from front             throughout the month to           created in the head office of
  Asked to define what           help the company in the           the manufacturing centres.
organizational democracy         long-run,” says Naughton.         But with the advent of the
means to Zappos, Naughton           Transparency is a key          knowledge economy the
puts it this way: “Every         principle of organizational       value is being truly created in
employee has a voice and         democracy, as defined by          the interface of the employees
an extra role in the success     WorldBlu, a leadership            and customers,” he says.
of the company.”                 and design business                  “And when (the value zone)
  To support that happening,     studio committed to               moved far away from the con-      HCL Technologies CEO Vineet Nayar talks to team members at
the company aims to be as        driving the democratic                                              a company-wide town hall at one of the India offices.
                                                                   trol hierarchy, the structure
transparent as possible.         workplaces movement.              became quite irrelevant.”
                                    Zappos also has built a           With this understanding,       given operating budgets and       you create a culture of
                                 workplace culture that values     HCL, which employs more           asked to “ideate” and create      openness (and) a culture of
                                 hearing from employees,           than 60,000 people, embarked      change instead of looking         transparency,” says Nayar.
                                 welcoming their opinions          on a journey to transform         to management for answers.           The model has had
                                 and ideas and surveying           its workplace, turning its        Nayar refers to this process      impressive results. Since
                                 them for input on certain         power structure on its head       as “systematically transferring   beginning the process
                                 company decisions.                to “infuse and empower”           ownership” from leadership        five years ago the company
                                    The collaborative work on      front-line staff members.         to the front lines.               has grown 21 per cent
                                 the company’s core values is         The new model is described       In addition, he says the        year over year. Nayar
                                 one example of this.              as an inverted pyramid, and       organization looks to build       adds this double-digit
                                    While employees don’t          is referred to as employees       a culture of trust founded        growth came at a time
                                 contribute to every single        first, customers second.          on transparency, a key            when other tech firms were
Jamie Naughton                   company decision, honest             Nayar says having              element to a thriving             experiencing a recession
                                 feedback on any decision          management focus on               workplace democracy.              and decreasing growth.
  “For us, it’s really looking   is encouraged.                    enabling employees while            He says HCL strives to             “That is proof enough
 at what most companies             “The root of democracy         being accountable through         continually push the envelope     that employees first,
consider confidential            for us is that every employee     company-wide reviews ulti-        of transparency through           customers second as a
and asking why, why is           can be honest,” she says.         mately benefits the customer.     sharing information, asking       concept works, and that’s
this confidential?               “So they always have a               “We as management              questions and raising issues      what democratization of the
  “Why can’t our employees       voice whether they like           are focused on delivering         — which are answered on           organization is all about.”
know this piece of informa-      something or they don’t.”         the highest value to              a company blog and not               Nayar is publishing a book
tion or that piece of infor-        Beyond transparency,           customers by focusing on          being afraid to wash its          based on HCL’s success
mation, and really putting       participatory decision            the employees,” he says.          dirty laundry in public.          entitled Employees First,
no limits on the information     making and openness to               Employees in turn are            “If you do all that stuff       Customers Second.
that you can share with          ideas and opinions, Zappos
employees,” says Naughton.       also fits the bill on every
  Every one of the employees
receives a daily report
                                 other one of the principles
                                 of a democratic workplace         Democracy, Employee Ownership Leads to Success
detailing how much               as identified by WorldBlu,        Continued from front              and scared,” says Jones.          to giving the company a
Zappos has made, what            says Naughton.                    a series of mini retreats to         Through the process            competitive advantage.
the monthly goals are, how          “There are 10 principles for   discuss whether to sell the       the team stayed true to              “For us, it’s the only way
close the company is to          organizational democracy          company, change course or         its one person, one vote          to do business, we can’t
reaching those goals, how        and I think each one of                                             decision-making model.            imagine doing it any other
much they’re spending on         those is very important.                                            Jones says democracy              way and wouldn’t want to,
shipping and so forth.           Even though we have our                                             involves discussions to           and we think that it’s a big
  The idea is that the           own 10 core values, they can                                        deliberate decisions, which       part of the reason for our
more employees know,             be represented in each one                                          can at times be frustrating       success,” he says.
the better-positioned they       of these principles,” she says.                                     but overall is a “good thing.”       Jones says he and the other
are to contribute to the            “We live organizational                                             The group made the             two co-founders all shared
company’s success.               democracy at our core.”                                             decision to recommit to its       the same vision for the
  Part of the impetus for           Even the company office                                          existing model and decline the    company’s business model
providing this report —          is structured in the spirit                                         tempting investment offers.       with the perspective that
particularly the inclusion       of democracy. Everyone,                                                “That recommitment             it is a better way to do
of the monthly goals —           from the front-line staff                                           to our model was a really         business and more enjoyable.
came during the recession        to the company CEO                Blake Jones                       energizing, transformative           The Boulder, Colorado-
when the company was             Tony Hsieh, sits in an                                              experience for us,” Jones tells   based solar energy organiza-
struggling to meet investor      identically-sized cubicle.        take on external investment.      Axiom News. “We still refer-      tion operates similar to a
and owner expectations.             Hsieh will be sharing            “It was such a difficult,       ence that summer regularly.”      co-operative in that all its big
  “Now employees can see         more about Zappos’                intense series of conversa-          Namasté Solar is               picture decisions are made on
whether we’re meeting (the       commitment to organi-             tions and people were very        passionate about workplace        a one-person, one-vote basis.
goals) or not, and if we’re      zational democracy at the         emotionally charged,              democracy and employee               Namasté Solar is a World-
not meeting our goals, then      WorldBlu 2010 awards              energetic, passionate, a lot      ownership, and Jones              Blu 2010 Most Democratic
we can make small changes        event in Las Vegas.               of us were just exhausted         attributes these approaches       Workplaces winner.



Democracy at School                                       Think Fridays                                           Democracy at NixonMcInnes
Colorado-based The Link School is the first               WorldBlu winner Chaordix brings together its           NixonMcInnes embraces openness and
school on the WorldBlu List. The school uses              team members every second Friday to share              transparency as part of its monthly board
a consensus decision-making model where                   what’s working and what’s not, discuss wins and        meetings, with two seats at each meeting
students and staff have equal input.                      losses, notice people’s efforts and solicit input.     reserved for team members who want to attend.

2
                                                                                                                             EDITORIAL
What Can Pirate Crews Teach
                                                                                                   Values Bind WorldBlu Community
About Workplace Democracy?                                                                         Build the movement, encourage more
                                                                                                   organizations to be blu
Software firm Nearsoft considers creating constitution to align staff
with mission                                                                                       A powerful set of values are   many democratic workplaces
By Michelle Strutzenberger                                                                         connecting winners from this   didn’t realize they were prac-
While the software firm                                                                            year’s WorldBlu List of Most   tising workplace democracy
Nearsoft has won a spot                                                                            Democratic Workplaces.         until discovering WorldBlu.
again on the 2010 WorldBlu                                                                           Axiom News has been             That makes us believe
List of Most Democratic                                                                            interviewing companies         there are a great deal of other
Workplaces it continues to                                                                         highlighted for the annual     associations and organizations
grapple with how to best                                                                           award and have discovered      that embody similar values
align staff with its mission                                                                       that while workplace           that when aggregated could
and democratically establish                                                                       democracy is as diverse        strengthen the growing
rights and responsibilities,                                                                       as the organizations that      worldwide movement.
without reverting to the                                                                           practise it, the shared values    Some that immediately
command-and-control model.                                                                         are the glue that binds.       come to mind are co-
   Nearsoft’s chief operating                                                                                                           operatives, employee-
officer (COO) Matt Pérez                                                                                                                owned companies and
says perhaps pirates have                                                                          . . . these values offer a           emerging movements
                                                                                                                                        like holacracy.
something to teach them                                                                            compelling alternative
in this regard.                 Nearsoft team members celebrate the company’s Feb. 15 birthday                                             But there are more.
                                with an office party complete with balloons, cake and music.
                                                                                                   to the command-and-                     We’d like to see this
   This past year the
Hermosillo, Mexico-based                                                                           control model — one                  movement continue to
company dissolved a board      to specifically address the       these constitutions were vital    we think a majority of               grow by encouraging
it had established that        company’s strategic direction.    to the success of the pirate                                           like-minded businesses
                                                                                                   people would choose                  to join a diverse and
was supposed to provide          In the meantime, he’s           crews in accomplishing
a space for a group of         mulling over the idea             their missions.
                                                                                                   if given the choice.                 innovative community.
employees to contribute to     of Nearsoft creating a               “There was clarity. Everyone                                           If you’re wondering
decisions about company        constitution, after finishing     knew what the (agreement)                                              whether you work in
operations and strategy.       a “fascinating read” about        was, everybody signed up to         Some values that             a democratic organization
                                     pirates, economics and      (it), and everybody owned it.     popped up through              consider questions like;
                                     workplace democracy,           “I think that kind of          our coverage include:          • are employees informed
                                                                                                   • Empowerment                    of the financial health,
“I think (the constitution) The Invisible Hook                   clarity . . . is very important
                                                                                                   • Transparency                   strategy and agenda of
                                     by economist                for execution, for getting
will bring that clarity that Peter Leeson.                       specific things done and          • Respect                        the organization?
we lacked with the oper-                “I think (the consti-    doing it in a way that is not,    • Meaningful work              • Do employees have choice
                                     tution) will bring that     ‘Let me tell you what you’re      • Work-life balance              over how or when they get
ating board but it would                                                                           • Fun and happiness              their work done?
                                     clarity that we lacked      going to do,’ but instead,
do it at a higher level.”            with the operating          ‘Here is the goal, here is how      Combined, these values       • Are responsibilities clear?
 — Matt Pérez, chief operating       board but it would do       we’re (going to benefit), how     offer a compelling alternative • Is everyone treated with
officer, Nearsoft                    it at a higher level,”      we’re going to share in the       to the command-and-con-          fairness and dignity?
                                     Pérez tells Axiom           loot that we get out of this      trol model — one we think      • Is communication open?
                                     News, noting that           mission, now pick up your         a majority of people would        By embracing a broad
   Pérez says one of the key   according to Leeson pirate        sword and charge.’”               choose if given the choice.    range of democratic
downfalls of the operations    crews practiced what today           The game-changer in            In fact, many WorldBlu         businesses we can help
board was that it did not      could be considered               the approach is that the          winners have told us that      promote a powerful set of
have a clear, succinct goal    workplace democracy.              crews were aligned to             being democratic has helped    values that contribute to
and guidelines, including        In a recent blogpost Pérez      the mission, rather than          recruit and retain top talent. better organizations,
delineating the consequences outlines how the principles         complying with it, and the          We’ve also learned that      citizens and communities.
for not participating,         and practices of the pirate       constitution helped foster



                                                                                                                advocate        axiom news
addressing issues or following crews line up with the organi-    that alignment, says Pérez,
through on decisions.          zational democracy approach       noting Nearsoft hasn’t
   The 50-employee company spelled out by WorldBlu               figured out how it might
is now experimenting           founder Traci Fenton.             go about formulating its
with task-specific teams,        Undergirding and                own constitution but it’s                             Peterborough Office     Kelowna Office
usually around a project that influencing all pirate crew        definitely something                             140 King Street, Suite 201   Suite 501, 1630 Pandosy Street
                                                                                                      Peterborough ON, Canada K9J 7Z8          Kelowna BC, Canada V1Y 1P7
needs to get done, which       operations was a constitution     being talked about.                   tel: 705.741.4421 • tfn: 800.294.0051   tel: 778.478.9740
staff members join based       they drafted which clearly           In keeping with its
primarily on their interest    defined the powers of             potential emulation of pirate                                          News Team
                                                                                                                                   Editor: Jennifer Higgs
level and time available.      various players, how the          crew operations the firm may                Writers: Jennifer Higgs, Camille Jensen, Michelle Strutzenberger
   Pérez says a task force     money would be divided,           also consider a pirate dress                                 Production Art: Yvonne Hollandy

with a clear purpose, timeline provisions for those injured      code, says the COO, his                                             Executive Team
                                                                                                                     Fraser Wilson, President • fraser@axiomnews.ca
and operating rules may        in battle and so forth.           accompanying laugh revealing                            Peter Pula, CEO • peter@axiomnews.ca
also be formed at some point     Pérez says he believes          his tongue-in-cheek.



DuPuis Digs Democracy                                   Engaging the Movement                                    Stay Connected
“It’s very exciting to come to work every day . . .     Axiom News is a four-time WorldBlu List                  Track the development of social business and the
Everybody is really energized about the company         awardee and has been engaging winners to share           practice of Stakeholder News. Subscribe to Axiom’s
and the environment of the company is the best it’s     their stories on axiomnews.ca as part of its com-        free e-news. Connect with us on LinkedIn and
ever been.” — Stephen DuPuis, DuPuis founder            mitment to the workplace democracy movement.             follow us on Twitter. Visit www.axiomnews.ca.

                                                                                                                                                                                3
Explore Communications Naturally Embraces Democracy
‘It has helped make me a better person . . . and a happier business owner’
By Jennifer Higgs           from the conference he                   doing,” he tells Axiom News.      empowerment is going to           a better family man, a better
Brett Grischo recalls being talked with employees about                 “I feed off of positive        have everyone feel like           friend, and a happier business
amazed when he first heard  the democratic principles and            energy and I know that            they are running their own        owner, that’s for sure,” he says.
about workplace democracy   someone interrupted to ask if            when people are comfort-          company,” he says.                   Explore Communications
from WorldBlu founder Traci he had written them himself.             able and have a good                 “(At) the same time we         is now working towards being
Fenton during a presentation  The team members                       work environment and a            need to collaborate and work      more conscious of their work-
at an Entrepreneurs’        agreed they bought into                  good culture that their mind      together and hold each other      place democracy practices.
Organization conference.    the principles and wanted                will be more fresh, more          accountable,” Grischo says,          “This year it’s really
                                  to make a conscious                clear and they’ll be able to      adding he enjoys the “twists      moved up our priority list
                                  effort to incorpo-                 do better work and be more        and turns” of living out          to be more conscious about
“I don’t think that work          rate more democracy                productive and all of our         workplace democracy.              it,” says Grischo.
should be work, it should in their workplace.                        clients will benefit,” he says.      Grischo says a powerful           As part of a new initiative,
                                  Explore Communica-                    Embracing a democratic         example of organizational         each month the company
be fun and feel like play.” tions applied for and                    style of operating comes down     democracy is how he is able       will focus on one of the
— Brett Grischo, owner and        was awarded a spot on              to empowerment and work-          to live out his personal life.    10 workplace democracy
CEO, Explore Communications       WorldBlu’s 2009 and                life balance, says Grischo.       He moved from Chicago             principles, posting it on a
                                  2010 Most Democratic                  As a business owner and        to Colorado, which has an         community board at the
                                  Workplaces List.                   entrepreneur, Grischo says        outdoors lifestyle. While at      front of the office for
  “(I) was amazed that        Grischo says 14 years                  it can be difficult to trust      one time he was nervous to        people to add examples
someone had organized and ago when he founded                        everyone will do what they        take vacation, because of the     of how the company
named and put a philosophy the media company he                      need to do and business           democratic working                practices the principle, give
and all the research and    wanted to make sure it was               will go on well unless he         environment he says he            kudos to team members
stats behind what I thought a healthy and productive                 is involved in everything.        feels confident that all          who live out the principle
I was already doing with    environment, where people                But he says he realized a         team members are working          and suggest new ideas.
my company anyway,” says    enjoy working together.                  long time ago his success         together for success and he          The board will reinforce
Grischo, owner and CEO        “I don’t think that work               is directly related to being      is able to enjoy taking time      what the organization is
of Denver, Colorado-based   should be work, it should be             surrounded by good people.        away and be with his kids.        already doing while making
Explore Communications.     fun and feel like play if you               “If we are all on the             “It has helped make me a       members more conscious of
  When Grischo returned     really love what you are                 same page with this, that         better person, a better father,   them, says Grischo.



‘Reversing the Hierarchy’
Continued from front
through its commitment to
democratic processes.
   The company drafted
a constitution that com-
bined previously written
conventions to serve as a
code of conduct moving
forward. The constitution
— which contains Future
Considerations’ renewed
mission, vision and values
                                  James Shaw
— was ratified by staff
members late last year.           about reversing the hierarchy.”
   Everyone in the company           In the company circle, each
now exercises a one-member,       staff member’s performance
one-vote policy for all major     is reviewed and bonuses are
decisions, including approving    distributed based on the
Future Considerations’ annual     group’s assessment.
budget, major variations             Financial data, including
to the budget and the             expenditure and debt are
election of its leadership.       discussed during weekly
   Shaw says this process,        staff meetings and are made
called the company circle,        available on its intranet
is a major defining point of      site. The company is also
their workplace democracy         considering implementing
approach because it empha-        employee ownership through
sizes that certain decisions      a stockholding agreement.
should be owned by the               “Our culture, performance
entire company.                   and results all reflect power-
   “The organization is the       ful, positive changes,” states a
sum of all its parts and          Future Considerations press
stakeholders, not just the        release. “Our organizational
board or key shareholders         structure has been renewed
and there are certain decisions   and strengthened, reflecting
that should be made by            the purpose and flexibility
the whole organization,”          that our times demand.
he says. “It’s not about             “Plus, we have received
eliminating hierarchy             more requests for work and
entirely; sometimes it’s          partnership than before.”

4

				
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