Will Marijuana Businesses Adopt Mainstream or New Age Management Styles?

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

As the marijuana industry grows, will it adopt the familiar hierarchy of managers and employees, as found in most companies? Or, as a new industry with its roots in counter-culture, will the business leaders find new ways to govern their companies, and create a pleasant, yet productive workplace.

One of the companies leading the transition to non-linear management styles is Zappos. While not in the cannabis industry, Zappos, the Amazon-owned online retailer, confirmed that 210 of its 1,503 employees — nearly 14% of the company — took a buyout deal after CEO Tony Hsieh announced the company was completely ridding itself of manager roles and job titles.

The company, well known for its experiments involving corporate culture, has been transitioning to a self-management organizational structure known as Holacracy since the beginning of 2013. Entering this year, about 85% of the company had made the transition.

Hsieh sent a nearly 5,000-word company-wide memo in late March that explained that any employee who was not satisfied with the transformation by April 30 could leave with three months’ severance.

“Having one foot in one world while having the other foot in the other world has slowed down our transformation towards self-management and self-organization,” Hsieh wrote.

To get their severance, employees had to be in good standing with the company. They were also asked to indicate by email that they had read the management book “Reinventing Organizations” and disagreed with its manager-free vision or else state that they were not reading it. According to the book’s author, Frederic Laloux, about 600 to 700 employees downloaded a free e-book version that was linked in Hsieh’s email.

John Bunch, technical adviser at Zappos and leader of the Holacracy transition, pointed out to Business Insider shortly before the April 30 deadline that the memo’s severance-package offer raised many questions among employees about what the company’s future looked like and that those questions still existed.

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