For years I have been working towards a flat company, which in many ways we have made great strides. Then in November, Scott, our operating partner in Crystal Lake moved on to work for the Northern Illinois Food Bank and we decided not to replace him with another operating partner and instead support the team to run the restaurant. This was my big chance to really get flat.
I could probably write a whole book on how this works. Oh wait, I did! A Slice of the Pie will be coming out in September preorder your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Slice-Pie-Build-Little-Business/dp/1591844584/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1331140754&sr=8-1
For now I will just share one essential process.
How does the team work through conflict and problem solve systems and processes? A Safe Space meeting to herd up the Moose and get ‘em out!
We have a communication tool we call Safe Space (copyright Rudy Miick) that we teach day one in orientation and use every day that has 8 bullet points. One of those bullet points is “moose in the room”. Imagine there is a server in our restaurant who has stepped up to the huge responsibility of writing schedules, and as you might guess the transition and new learning for this server isn’t perfect. Well that is the scenario that happened here (and could happen in any company), and a few of the servers found themselves talking about the misses they were experiencing, which was now becoming a “moose in the room” (definition of moose in the room is similar to what many call elephant in the room. It is that big stinky issue that everyone smells and knows its there, but no one wants to address it) for the service team. In our culture the next step in creating “Safe Space” is to squash that moose! So the team called a meeting for anyone who wanted to attend, and as the memo said “bring your moose”. No managers, no bosses, I only showed up to take pictures. The woman in the white top sitting down on the left is Alex, the schedule writer, and she also facilitated the meeting with great success.
The servers felt heard, they brought out their moose, big and small, and it was done with dignity and respect, through all of our values…and in less than an hour. Perhaps some people felt uncomfortable to start, and that is ok, because the result is a culture of “Safe Space” .
To me this is what I call success in building a business of business people. The team has the tools the need to run the company and be their own bosses, holding each other accountable, because they care, and expect to be the best. It is not perfect, and this is a another great example of why we don’t need managers if we are brave enough to build a flat company and trust the team to be high performers.