Recognising individual capability

I have sometimes felt like ‘being a voice in the wilderness’ when promoting the concept as very little appeared to change in the corporate world. However, after a very interesting number of months of international travel I learned that a lot has actually been changing. An increasing number of articles indicate that moves are happening in organisations that are aligned with my BUL concepts. This has changed my attitude to one of being even more optimistic about how people are using every opportunity to become self-managing. Here are a number of examples from the many that I have gathered.

The Virgin Group

The experiment by some parts of the Virgin Group to give team members the opportunity to take time off when they feel a need from simply going to the dentist to taking time for family issues including going on holiday with their children. There are clearly some conditions in place to ensure that essential work is covered during any absence which places a sensible responsibility on team members to keep the business operating effectively.


Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos decided about a year ago to get rid of all managers. And as the holiday crunch began, many watched how that decision was holding up under the strain of the retail industries most important and demanding season. No one reports to anyone anymore. Instead, employees self-manage and belong to different decision-making circles that keep the company operating. It’s called a “holacracy.”

Square Root

This Austin based software company organises diverse cross functional groups of employees into ‘herds’ that meet on a daily basis. The company sees itself as having a democratic culture in which a month old employee contributed a video and blog that helped give the herd concept it final shape. However, the company still had departments that meet twice monthly and still report to managers which will hopefully change in the future.

StartupBus Europe

Considered an exciting concept of gathering 20 individual tech developer types who are on a mission to develop a new digital product in 72 hours whilst travelling on a double decker London Bus. Although the participants don’t know each other they very quickly get down to exploring new products as they journey from London to Cologne. Although time is short it tends to energise the participants and although sleep deprived they eventually develop a product that looks good enough to attract investors. The groups pitch their products to a group of investors in a burning man inspired scrapyard.

Role of disruptors

The need to try new and innovative approaches to working practices is a very clear imperative. This is illustrated by the fact that over the past several decades the lifespan of some of the Fortune 500 companies has dramatically reduced from 75 to 15 years. Even the most apparently successful and traditional organisations have fallen by the wayside having been brushed aside by mergers and competition from new innovative technologies. In addition to the above many of the failures have been attributed to the organisations remaining static in times of rapid change mainly due to lack of vision by their leaders. The organisations that have survived have recognised the role that disruptors have played and took action to learn from them.

It is interesting to note how many references are made to the role of disruptors in influencing change around the world. It ranges from an individual who does something quite dramatic in his/her community to situations where large numbers of people are taking action to change what is happening in their communities. The facts about disruptors are that they are passionate about their cause and willing to go the extra mile to make it happen even against considerable odds.

The action of disruptors may actually produce truly innovative outcomes or alternatively fail miserably due to lack of focus or support. However, the interesting factor is that whatever the outcome their passion and energy for change does not appear to diminish. Being a bottomupleader implies that you are likely to be a disruptor as your self-managing role is unlikely to fit with the traditional hierarchical structure found in most organisations.  However, times are changing as shown by the dramatic drop in oil prices which certainly will stretch the strategic creativity of many leaders. This should encourage them to make even greater use of their talented employees who actually want to do a great job and just need their managers to get out of the way.

Negative disruptors

The increasing action of the so called Islamic State and other terrorist organisations have become a major disruptor due to their indiscriminate attacks on ‘soft’ targets with the aim of killing and injuring large numbers of innocent people. It is therefore important to recognise that there are negative as well as constructive disruptors in play with agendas that can produce significant carnage as well as others who produce measurably positive outcomes. An astute BUL scans the environment to sort out the + from the – in order to engage with those disruptors who can make a truly positive contribution to people, organisations and society.


I have often been pleasantly surprised by the creativity and passion demonstrated by individual employees in a variety of traditional organisations. This has stimulated my belief that given the appropriate scope that they would become effective in self-managing even in the traditional hierarchy. The reality is that truly effective employees are usually very capable of self managing as they don’t need the attention of managers other than to sort our issues that impact on their performance.

If you have any comments on this blog I would appreciate hearing from you by either contacting me by email at or leaving a comment on the blog.

Best wishes for a productive and happy 2016