A business without managers

Morning Star proves that it’s “both possible and profitable” to do away with managerial ranks and let employees “mostly manage themselves,” said Gary Hamel at Harvard Business Review.

Gary Hamel

Harvard Business Review

“If only we could manage without managers,” said Gary Hamel. Sure, all those senior VPs help coordinate complex businesses. But they can also be “cumbersome and costly,” slowing decision-making and disempowering other employees. Are they really necessary? California-based Morning Star proves they aren’t. The world’s largest tomato processor, founded in 1970, employs 400 people full-time and rakes in $700 million in annual revenues without a conventional management structure.

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Morning Star has a president, but “nobody gives orders and nobody takes them.” Each employee negotiates assignments with colleagues, and everyone has permission to spend money. With no job titles or hierarchy, “there’s no career ladder to climb,” but the web of commitments to co-workers means, as one team member says, that “nobody’s your boss and everybody’s your boss.” Not everyone can adjust to the company’s “eccentric yet effective” model. But Morning Star proves that it’s “both possible and profitable” to do away with managerial ranks and let employees “mostly manage themselves.”

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