From alpha to beta: Why (and how) we work without bosses

From alpha to beta: Why (and how) we work without bosses

No bosses, no job titles and no hierarchies of any kind: for some people this probably sounds like the dream workplace, but for those of us working at DCMN it’s an everyday reality.

Earlier this year, we introduced a new organisational structure that transformed the way we work, both with clients and with each other. You’ve probably heard of agile working but the DCMN approach goes much further: it completely removes top-down management and instead fosters collaboration and team-based decision making.

Our approach is more than a company structure – it’s a shift in mindset and a whole new way of thinking about how we structure our work lives. Today, we want to give you some insights into our approach in the hope of challenging the way you look at organisational life and perhaps inspire you to rethink your own approach to company building.

Introducing the beta approach

Earlier this year, DCMN’s founders, Andreas Dengler and Matthias Riedl, introduced a concept called beta to the business. In essence, they decided to hand over a lot of their decision-making authority to the members of the teams they’d hired. From the outside it might sound like total anarchy: leads and managers are essentially replaced with self-organised teams that make decisions collaboratively. But there is method to the madness: it’s a system that ultimately trusts its employees to always act in the company’s best interests.

So why would two founders give up so much of their decision-making power? Well, the approach allows DCMN to remain client-centric and safeguards its very unique company culture, while also allowing the business to continue growing just as fast as it has in the past. DCMN was ranked the fifth fastest growing advertising company in Europe in this year’s FT1000, having grown from 20 to 200 staff over the last four years. Beta means the business can remain agile even as it continues to grow and it can also react quickly to the fast-changing marketing industry that surrounds it.

At the core of the beta concept are fully autonomous, self-organised teams. While many businesses are now working with leaner structures and offer more autonomy for staff, beta goes further: it removes all hierarchies and gives power to the teams because it has full trust for employees built into the structure. Team members are fully empowered to make strategic decisions that were previously made by line managers, fostering a growth mindset and entrepreneurial spirit company-wide.

As Matthias Riedl explains: “At DCMN, you are no longer an employee – you are an entrepreneur. We grant our teams full control over their budgets, complete autonomy at work, freedom to manage their own time and even unlimited holidays. It might sound like our teams have too much freedom, but the flipside is they also take on all the responsibility of a team lead. And so far, we’ve seen them really rise to the task.”

Life without bosses

How it works: A beta framework built on teamwork and trust

The beta model takes management theories from social psychologist Douglas MacGregor and the more recent work of leadership advocate Niels Pflaeging and adapts them to DCMN’s specific needs. The structure divides the company into a periphery of value creator teams, which are multi-disciplinary teams centered around client projects; and core teams, such as finance and tech teams, which are the backbone of the business.

All teams are aligned on a shared company vision and mission, and regular goal setting keeps everything on track. Before beta was introduced, a group called the Growth Guardians was set up to advise the founders on the company’s growth challenges. This group developed a set of guiding principles, which define the DCMN culture and approach to work with guidelines like ‘we embrace mistakes’ and ‘we feedback’.

The beta framework is built on the principles of trust and transparency. It requires the founders to share as much information as possible with their teams. Particularly during the transition phase, the focus was on building a common sense of purpose in order to create an environment where success of the overall business is prioritised over individual success.

Teams are given unlimited holidays and flexible working hours. Job titles have been removed internally, placing everyone on equal footing (though you might still see some staff using job titles externally for business reasons). But of course these extra freedoms also come with additional responsibilities. Importantly, all decisions that were once made by bosses and managers are now made within the self-organised teams.

“Such a radical shift in perspective is only possible when you trust your employees. We trust our staff to act in DCMN’s best interests and in return they get a lot more freedom than they would working almost anywhere else,” Matthias says.

Safeguarding a unique and diverse company culture

A key driver behind the introduction of beta was maintaining our highly engaged work culture. When staff were asked to describe the company culture as part of a recent rebrand, many used words like creative, international, innovative, and above all, fun. It is this team spirit that Andi and Matthias wanted to protect by introducing beta.

Quarterly team surveys reveal a highly engaged workplace culture, with 91 percent of staff likely to recommend a friend or family member to work at DCMN. DCMN employees have consistently shown high levels of job satisfaction, with a ranking of 4.02 stars out of 5 for overall satisfaction revealed in the latest survey in August .

“The most important metrics for me are how likely our team is to recommend DCMN as a workplace, and how likely a client is to recommend us as their growth marketing partner,” Matthias adds. “Beta helps us improve on both of those things: it helps us serve our clients better while also maintaining our unique company culture. At the end of the day, we have to protect this culture because it is the most important factor for our success.”

And guess what? We are hiring! To see our latest job postings and be part of the DCMN growth journey, visit careers.dcmn.com

 

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