What does Matt Black Systems in Poole do differently than competitors and other similar companies?

For over 10 years Matt black has operated without a management hierarchy. In 2003 we started our journey when my co-director and I chose to work ON the company rather than just IN the company. Our organisation stands in contrast to the traditional hierarchical and functional approach used by the rest of the aerospace market. We have cut our costs in half and our productivity has tripled. This structure has made our organization sustainable, but in addition has benefitted our customers, our suppliers and above all the people who work within it. Each individual has full autonomy over their resources and activities, and all demonstrate remarkable personal growth through their working.

 

After a decade of experience, it is clear that radical re-organization is both possible and beneficial; however many people claim such an approach requires a new enlightenment or even a mystical perspective. I want to reassure people that it is ordinary and down to earth; self-management in contrast to command-and-control is no different to the contrast between roundabouts and traffic lights. There is no enlightenment required- no special vocabulary, no Gurus are needed. Truth is, self-management is how people run their lives when they are not at work, the challenge is to the command-and-control hierarchy of the conventional business, not the individual worker.

So, to make self-management run at work- just like a roundabout- the organization will need:

  1. an appropriate layout (arrangement of resources and activities and information).
  2. a simple universal rule-set for everyone to follow (like give-way to vehicles from the right). We base our rules on a simple internal/external market formed into supply chains- with all transactions being voluntary.

The idea above works perfectly for a very small businesses- it’s how they all run- one person, self-managing. It’s the most used model in the world. Yea for self-management!

However, a corporation is different; it has a peculiar attribute- the people in it don’t own the resources- they are owned by the shareholders. The corporation is an investment vehicle and has duties to the investors. So the challenge for the larger organization is to provide autonomy to the individual within and yet maintain fiduciary duties towards the shareholders. At MBS came up with a simple stewardship model to do this. Returning to our roundabout analogy- imagine that instead of each individual driving their own car they are driving rental cars. The drivers act as stewards of their vehicle. The shareholder provides the car and the driver looks after it (meets certain conditions) and pays the rental charge. This is how we deal with the fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders and yet achieve autonomy for each.

What is our / my biggest challenge?

Responsibility; people never wash rental cars.

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