A few months ago I was searching around Barnes & Noble to find my new reading list (yes I am archaic and buy my books in paper format). One of the books that caught my attention was entitled, Design in Nature: How Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organizations.
The book is about the constructal law in physics that states:
For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.
It was stated by Adrian Bejan, a professor of mechanical engineering, in 1996. Bejan was interested by the seeming similarity between tree-like structures throughout nature, and felt that the design structures had to have scientific reasoning.
Just from the definition you can see why this concept intrigued me from a business perspective. Just replace the some key words in the definition:
For business to live it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to information and ideas that flow through it.
This got me thinking about traditional top-down organization charts.
In my opinion, management exists to support staff and their growth. Classic organizations don’t lend to this, but rather a top down approach to management and communication.
I had often spoken about the CopyPress Culture as a plant, that it was organic and constantly changing. I found it very strange how much constructal law spoke to what we had been building. I began to look at an inverted version of the traditional org chart as a great place to start what my vision for our organization is.
This piece got me thinking about how our Core Values fit into the constructal law. As I began to look at this organizational challenge a design began to take shape.
At CopyPress our Core Values are the roots for an organization that is growing. Our focus on support is given a perfect symbol in a tree.
As I worked on this further, I began to wonder how we could help this organizational organism grow in a direction that is sustainable. This gave birth to O.A.K.S.
O.A.K.S is CopyPress’ new internal system for quarterly accountability and growth. We are using it to structure our development on an organizational and personal level. If you look at our Core Values as the ideas that shape our culture, then O.A.K.S is the concept that shapes our management strategy.
O – Ownership
Each CopyPresser, throughout the organization, is asked to choose a project, outside of the day-to-day scope of their employment to work on during the quarter. The project should be related to their position, but not a simple KPI.
My O for Q2 is to complete a training manual on O.A.K.S (meta I know).
A – Accountability
Each CopyPresser is asked to now give a KPI which they can be held to by their manager. For a Connector, it may be the number of communications they send to publishers. For our software team it may be a deadline completion rate.
K – Knowledge
Each CopyPresser is asked to make a commitment to learning. What specific books will you read this quarter? What online courses will you take? What topic will you master? Our marketing team has decided to start an SEO study group to improve their combined knowledge of SEO.
S – Stewardship
Each CopyPresser is asked to make a commitment to limiting resource use within CopyPress. This means keeping an eye on wasted time and money. Our QA team may commit to limiting client rejections of copy to 5% in order to decrease turnaround times.
Each team member fills out their O.A.K.S and shares it with their direct manager, who helps push them farther in their commitments to themselves and the company. We then review the O.A.K.S quarterly, and will use the data at year’s end to evaluate performance and pay.
Accountability is a very real part of our management strategy and culture at CopyPress. Everyone knows that failing to be held accountable can have a real impact on the company as a whole, and so we do not have an issue parting ways with CopyPressers that don’t stack up in terms of accountability. It may seem harsh, but we never want to become a culture with no purpose.
I will continue to update readers about how are management and culture experiment unfolds. I am more than sure that we will have some bumps along the way. I am sure we will face some pivotal decisions that will force us to rethink portions of our structure, but the key is continuing to grow in a way that maximizes the flow of information and ideas, and I think we have a strong start.