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You’re here, because you know there’s a better way to structure your business

I work with founders of start-ups and small businesses who want to adopt alternative organisational structures so they can remain purposeful, and scale with agility. Are you ready to be a founder who challenges the status quo?

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You have the power to disrupt the status quo . . .

As a founder you have the power to disrupt the common business blueprint of hierarchical structures, and choose a new way of working that increases autonomy, accountability and provides sustainable growth. 

Perhaps you don’t want to become another rigid corporate culture; fearful that if you grow you’ll become more bureaucratic, and the agility that keeps you competitive will stall. Or maybe you have some horror stories of your own, where you’ve experienced first hand the frustration, and dissatisfaction of the workplace practises you’ve been exposed to during your own career. I’m guessing you’ve even promised yourself that you’ll never make a workplace like that? 

The good news is, there are many alternative organisational models available for you to explore, so that you can create a unique and purposeful business that operates with a truly people-centred focus.

Why go beyond traditional hierarchy?

You may already be aware of the limitations of a traditional hierarchy, and we’ve seen many of these pitfalls play out when the world changes. The limitations of traditional hierarchical models are becoming increasingly apparent. Inflexible structures, slow decision-making processes, and a disconnection from the company’s core purpose lead to unhappy people and hinder innovation. Alternative organisational models, on the other hand, are designed for agility, giving power to individuals and teams to make decisions quickly and effectively, based on real-time information and a shared vision.

In an era where adaptability, creativity, and human-centric approaches are key to success, traditional hierarchical structures fall short. As a founder, you are in a unique position to redefine what business success looks like. Move beyond the constraints of bureaucracy to a realm where agility, impact, and true innovation thrive. 

Alternative Organisational Models

You may have already come across alternative organisational models such as Holacracy, Teal, Semco Style, Matrix, Network, Flat, or Horizontal. 

At the heart of all alternative organisational structures are the principles of self-management, autonomy, and a deeper sense of purpose. In their own way, these models offer a revolutionary approach to organisational structure and leadership.

Choosing an alternative organisational model is more than a strategic decision; it’s a commitment to a philosophy that values human potential, creativity, and adaptability. Whether you’re drawn to the holistic approach of Teal or the structured flexibility of Holacracy, the journey toward implementing these models can redefine success for your business.

Teal

Teal prioritises wholeness and self-management, integrating employees’ full selves into their work. They are guided by an evolutionary purpose, allowing the business to grow and adapt organically. Teal organisations transcend traditional structures, focusing instead on self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose. Inspired by the principles of self-determination and intrinsic motivation, Teal structures empower individuals to bring their full selves to work, fostering an environment where creativity and innovation flourish.

Semco Style

Semco Style is an innovative organisational model that champions self-management, focusing on employee autonomy and democratic decision-making. Pioneered by Ricardo Semler, this approach dismantles traditional hierarchies, empowering teams to set their own goals, make decisions, and shape their work environment. Emphasising trust, transparency, and shared leadership, Semco Style fosters a dynamic, flexible workplace where creativity and productivity flourish, aligning personal and organisational growth.

Holacracy

Holacracy offers a structured approach to self-management, replacing traditional hierarchies with a system of distributed authority and clear roles that evolve over time. Holacracy redefines organisational governance, distributing authority and decision-making through a clear set of rules and roles. This model replaces top-down hierarchies with self-organising teams, ensuring that operations are efficient and align with the organisation’s core purpose.

Flat / Horizontal 

The flat hierarchy, or horizontal organisational model, minimises traditional levels of management, creating a more egalitarian structure where decision-making and responsibilities are spread across all levels. This approach encourages open communication, faster decision-making, and greater employee involvement in the company’s direction. By reducing layers of management, it aims to boost morale, increase efficiency, and foster a culture of innovation and collaboration, making organisations more responsive to internal and external changes.

Network

The network organisational model is a flexible and dynamic structure characterised by a central core with interconnected nodes or independent entities. This model emphasises outsourcing non-core operations to external specialists, leveraging the strengths of diverse partners. It promotes agility, innovation, and scalability, allowing organisations to adapt quickly to market changes and technological advancements. Ideal for the digital age, the network model facilitates collaboration, reduces overhead, and enhances global reach through its expansive ecosystem.

What are the benefits of alternative structures?

Alternative organisational models should never be treated as a trend or a fad. As I often explain to founders, the way you operate should be designed to support you in achieving an end goal and enable the highest possible performance from your team. As with everything culture related, it is ultimately a means to an end. If you’re currently considering an alternative organisational structure, here are some of the benefits you can expect to experience; 

Market agility 

Businesses who have adopted alternative models are able to better adapt to market challenges and be more resilient in the face of change. The decentralised nature of these structures make them naturally more adaptable. 

Customer-centricity 

Traditional organisational structures create an internal culture that puts too much focus on the individual, generating a competitive environment. This often leads to poor customer-centricity, because the politics and bureaucracy only restricts people’s ability to serve the end user. In decentralised models, greater focus is put back on the customer, and how the business and teams can best operate to meet customer needs. 

Innovate faster

By distributing decision-making power, your business can respond more quickly to market changes and innovate at a faster pace. Those closest to the problems have the power to make change, rather than waiting for top-down decision makers.

Unleashing people potential 

For many founders the most fulfilling part of adopting an alternative organisational model is the way it supports people to unleash their potential; both within and outside of the workplace. There is a strong focus on personal development, as well as the ability to bring all of people’s skills and talents to life.

Increase accountability and ownership 

In alternative models people are no longer passive to the decisions from top management, instead there is greater accountability and ownership due to the increased autonomy and participation that these structures require.

B Corp Friendly 

Alternative organisational models, like flat hierarchies and self-management, align with B Corp certification by fostering transparency, accountability, and sustainability. They enable businesses to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, promoting ethical practices. There are many organisations who claim their self-managed way of operating enables them to be more connected to their B Corp mission. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Alternative organisational models

When’s the right time to adopt an alternative model?

It’s well-known that start-ups and smaller businesses can adapt to alternative models much quicker than larger companies, purely down to the simple fact of size. If you can adopt an alternative model when you’re a smaller entity, you will grow with your operating model, and you will be much better off in the long run. 

As always, there is no right time. Delaying and waiting to adopt an alternative way of working can often mean you never begin, because you’re always waiting for the right time. Many founders who I’ve worked with wished they had started earlier. 

What should the company size be to change to an alternative model?

While smaller companies experience a quicker implementation, this doesn’t mean company size should deter you. If you consider large organisations such as Haier and Bayer Pharmaceuticals, who have all adopted their own alternative organisational models, you will discover that even big, global companies can discover a way of operating that works for them. 

Which organisational model is better?

There is no perfect model that exists. What works for one business, may not work for another, which is why it’s important to not see these models as a blueprint, or an exact science. Instead, it’s about discovering what fits best for your company right now, and find what works best for your team. Part of partnering with me is that I guide you through this process, so that you build something that is bespoke to your organisation, and not a copycat.

How do we know which model to choose for our business?

You may have heard of some of the models I’ve shared, or you may have only heard of one. Right away, you don’t need to pick one and stay rigid to it. Through our time together you’ll discover what feels best for the business, and we’ll experiment on some of the styles together so you and your team can get a feel for some of the practices and ways of working. 

Ultimately, you’re not picking one model. You are building an alternative way of working that is designed specifically for your business. You might pick and mix different parts of certain models, or we might come up with something even better. That’s all part of the journey. 

Is there a particular model that works best for (x industry)?

It’s common to believe that only particular models work for certain industries. However, alternative organisational structures have been adopted across all industries. This includes challenging sectors such as construction, health care, banking, manufacturing and law. 

Choosing a model is less about your industry, and more about the finer details of leadership and the collective mindset that exists within your company. 

How long does it take to adopt an alternative organisational model?

How long will it take is a common question – but as we all know, it all depends on many varying and complex factors. It’s important to set in your mind now that this is a long-term journey, not an overnight transformation. 

You will begin to see shifts within a few months, but ultimately there is no guarantee of when you’ll feel like you’ve ‘arrived’. 

All the companies I’ve worked with, and continue to support, know that there is always the next area to work on, and something else to progress. And don’t forget, this is natural because your business will grow, and outside influences will impact your business, so it’s better to have in your mind – progress over perfection. 

If you choose to work with me, we’ll begin on a six-month journey together to get things started. 

Who needs to be involved in the evolution?

Everyone is part of the evolution to an alternative operating model. It takes your entire company to be part of the journey. After all, this is not a top-down culture change. We need people to get onboard and be part of shaping the new system.   

To decide that you’re going to try a new operating model there are commonly two ways to do this. Democracy through dictatorship; where you as the founder make the final decision that you’re going to be doing this. Or you can take it to a vote. Again, this is something that I can support you with in the preliminary stages.

What’s the commitment to go on this journey?

I don’t want to put you off – but I also want to make you sure that you are fully committed to giving this journey your best effort. 

Adopting an alternative organisational model is daunting, and feels like a huge commitment. However, the biggest commitment is the courage and trust to give it a go. Knowing that even if it fails, you’ve learned something along the way. And I say failure very loosely, as even those who don’t go all the way, will learn a great deal on how to improve their company culture. 

Can you introduce us to other companies who have adopted this approach?

Absolutely! – I’m extremely honoured to not only have my own clients who I can introduce you to, who are always willing to share their journeys; But I’m also part of a number of networks and communities where many of these bold founders can be found. 

I’ve also interviewed many progressive pioneers who have adopted alternative models on my podcast. That’s perhaps a great place to start if you’re considering this journey. 

A guide for the journey . . .

With a background in nurturing purpose-driven businesses and autonomous teams, I bring six years of experience in steering companies towards alternative organisational models. Since reading Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux in 2017, I have dedicated my career and professional development to supporting founders to find a model that works for them and their team.

My approach is rooted in honesty and a firm belief in unlocking human potential within the workplace. Having collaborated across diverse sectors—from technology to non-profits—I’ve honed my expertise in pioneering new ways of working, emphasising self-management and team autonomy.

As a certified practitioner in Holacracy, TuffLeadership, and Certified Semco Style Expert, as well as a Teal Ambassador;  I am equipped to guide founders through the transformative journey towards a more flexible, responsive, and empowered organisational structure, ensuring their ventures not only adapt to the evolving business landscape but also flourish in it.

I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, which means when working with me you won’t find that I’m wed to a particular model or framework, because it’s truly about what your business and team needs. 

Adopting an alternative model is a journey, and I like to imagine myself as a guide on that journey, easing you over the bumps, helping you to avoid the pitfalls, and ensuring you enjoy the view of the workplace landscape you’re creating.

Case Study: Play Fund Win

Play Fund Win is a UK-based fundraising platform which has transformed raising money for good causes through technology based applications. The co-founders of the business didn’t want to grow into another corporate clone as they felt the agility and innovation they experience within the team would be lost. They wanted an alternative organisational model that would compliment the team’s creative nature, support them during growth, and be strongly aligned to the company’s purpose and values. 

I partnered with Play Fund Win to support them in the evolution of their culture and navigate them on the journey of creating their alternative way of working. While the dominant model they chose was Semco Style, we have used a variety of practices and operating styles from Agile and Holacracy as well. Play Fund Win is a great example of how you don’t just need to follow one strict framework. Instead, it really is about finding what works for the business and the team. 

So far, together we have implemented a nested circles organisational structure. Defined roles and responsibilities. Co-created core values and a social contract with the team. Hosted quarterly offsite sessions to train the team on coaching conversations, feedback and decision-making processes. Developed mentoring and personal development pathways. 

The journey is on-going with Play Fund Win, as adopting an alternative operating model is no quick-win. 

Here’s what their Co-Founder Steve Lightfoot has to say about it; 

“We could not have begun this journey without Lizzie, and we continue to see the value she delivers to both the team and the business in her holistic approach. Every time we have a session with Lizzie, whether it’s a team session or just us as co-founders we move forward. I still can’t believe other companies are not doing this work because it makes such a difference. I dread to think of the chaos we would be in without Lizzie’s support. We also truly appreciate Lizzie’s honest feedback and support on the things we’re doing. She’s on hand whenever we need her, and we recognise her as a key part of our growth.”

lizzie

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