Ivy Global and the Invisible Pyramid
Semco Style Stories Article
First off, let’s introduce the guest speakers of the very first episode of ‘Semco Style Stories’! Jorn is the founder of Ivy Global, which he established in 2014. He is an enthusiast by nature with the dream of creating a platform for students that will help them bridge their path to the industry. He shared that dream with Erik, who was the first one to join Ivy Global in 2015. With both sharing an entrepreneurial drive, Jorn and Erik decided to partner up. Even before the partnership Jorn had been incorporating Semco-like principles into the organization.
And so they did just that! No job descriptions were created, no formal management was set-up, no registrations of holidays or days off, no one telling you what to do, and total transparency in their finances. These Semco-like principles were all implemented from the start and seemed to be the foundation of their successes. Since their start in 2014, Ivy Global had grown into an organization that employed 50 to 60 people in 2018. Both Jorn and Erik felt like true entrepreneurs who now employed well-performing and responsible individuals. Ivy Global was in the spring of their organizational existence. Or, so it seemed. But, as the saying goes in Dutch, “April does what he wants”. Ivy Global was no exception. On the road to their success, they had to face several challenges.
Responsibility Beyond the Individual
Jorn and Erik realized that they were still telling others what to do and therefore controlling the organization. It was hard to spot however, since both felt they employed highly responsible and high-performing individuals. Deadlines were met and new offices were created in other cities. So the question was where did it all go wrong?
Transparency in their finances was present, but it was still only Jorn who read them and acted accordingly. That meant that only Jorn and Erik were able to connect the long-term vision of Ivy Global with their day-to-day responsibilities. According to Jorn, this meant “that we had to find out self-managed was not the same as self-directed”. And, indeed, implementing Semco-like principles such as full transparency and no job descriptions does not imply that an organization is self-directed. Strategic awareness and long-term thinking are necessary for all members of the organization to enter the road to self-directed teams.
Clarifying the Playing Field
With the entrance of Semco Style Institute, the question remained what to do about the invisible pyramid. “It started out simple, with the creation of a framework”, says Jorn. “It created boundaries within our organization.
It takes time to get a feel for that and to structure these elements wisely. But, as Jorn says: “First you want to create responsibility, the structure comes later.”
Being Your Own Manager
This is a prime example of how alignment between teams can take shape immediately. In order to create alignment in the long run, however, they decided to establish 6-month plans in which they share the goal for that period. How will we reach that goal? What happens when we don’t reach it? These questions are central and are specified for every department within the organization. In doing so, the organizational goals are aligned and shaped to the character of all functions within the organization.
In addition, they introduced ‘balanced days’ where, once every two months, everyone could share the projects they’ve been working on. These company-wide days gave an even better insight into other projects, and the ones who worked on a certain project had the opportunity to ask for help or step down and look for other projects. In other words, the process of each employee becoming their own manager started to take shape.
Their next experiment will be focused on giving continuous feedback. Not just Erik and Jorn, but every Ivy Global employee. It will help them in creating high-performing employees due to a great sense of team awareness. Besides that, they will be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and how to improve them. With such bottom-up approaches, they aim to learn more about themselves and how to remain entrepreneurial. Jorn captures this learning process perfectly: “That is what Semco is all about; you know where you want to go, but you have no clue how to get there, so you just try and experiment”.
Many thanks to Erik and Jorn for sharing their entrepreneurial experiences within Ivy Global. Let’s learn from their experiences and absorb all the wisdom they shared in their journey towards becoming a Semco Style organization!
Want to learn more about their extraordinary story? Scroll down, grab a coffee and enjoy watching the full recording of the Semco Style Stories webinar with Ivy Global!