Democratic Workplaces

Mark Dowds recommended WorldBlu to me last week. The organisation supports the creation of more democratic workplaces and publishes a yearly list [I’m not sure why a one-page PDF has to take up 6 MB of space]. Three Canadian companies are on the list, 1-800-GotJunk; Axiom News; and TakingITGlobal.

One consulting company caught my eye, Point B Solutions Group of Seattle, which is described as a model organisation, though not on this year’s list. From the Seattle Times:

Point B has no physical headquarters, no rigid work hours, no formal job titles and, unusual for a consulting firm, little travel. More significant, employees are encouraged — no, required — to have a life outside of work. “My first priority isn’t the firm,” says Jenkins, who works out of a small office near the Edmonds ferry terminal. To illustrate this, Jenkins mentions that right now, at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, he’s just returned from a two-day vacation in the mountains with his family.

It reminds me of wirearchy in action, but these types of organisations still appear to be in the minority [in our society] and I’m not certain that a sea change has begun.

8 Responses to “Democratic Workplaces”

  1. Jon Husband

    I applaud Traci fenton’s intentions and energy, but 95+ % of organizations are (IMO) nowhere near democracies in any conventional sense of the word.

    I am also a bit wary of WorldBlu … the founder (Traci) asked me to write a guest blog post about how organizational democracy and wirearchy are related, about a year ago. I wrote several, edited the final draft several times to be shorter and less controversial (at Traci’s request), had promises that it would be posted (April and May 2007), and there has been no blogging activity, etc. since last April.

    I dislike doing free work that is then ignored … it devalues the work and demonstrates a basic lack of respect. How hard is it to publish a blog post ?

  2. Harold

    Thanks for the insight, Jon. That’s what’s great about the blogosphere, it’s fairly self-correcting. Where I’ve seen real workplace democracy is between groups of free-agents who negotiate each project as equals, even though one is designated as project manager.

    BTW, you have the distinction of making the 2000th comment on this blog.

  3. Jon Husband

    I just learned bey email that there have been ‘crossed wires” in communications between Traci Fenton and me. She let me know on June 26th that there was a new blog platform coming along for WorldBlu and that my post would be better placed on that new blog.

    So, I owe her an apology and this is as good a place as any to offer it. I apologize for any discomfort that relating my story / experience may have caused, and I intend to offer ato WordBlu a guest blog post about how wirearchy and organizational democracy are related or have aligned interests.

    Yes, Harold .. the blogosphere is (still) a great way to make transparency work towards positive outcomes 😉

  4. Traci Fenton

    Hi Harold,

    Thanks for the blog post and mention. As you may have seen on our website, two representatives from Point B spoke at the last WorldBlu Live conference in 2005 held in Washington, DC. And yes, they do seem to be a model of organizational democracy. They were not on this year’s WorldBlu List because they did not apply due to other awards that they were applying for this past year instead. Hopefully they will apply in the future.

    I’m most interested in your assertion, however, as to why the companies on the WorldBlu List aren’t democratic — what makes you say that? What evidence do you have? What is your definition of democracy?

    In order for the organizations to make the WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces they have to be practicing the ten principles that create a democratic system on three levels — a leadership level, an individual level and a systems and processes level. You can view the full list of principles by clicking here and more about the criteria by clicking here

    Employees in the organization complete a survey to determine if the organization is democratic, a survey that was developed based on a decade of research into what makes a democratic organization. It’s a very high bar and as far as I know no other organization has developed such a comprehensive standard for identifying democratic workplaces.

    I hope this helps to clarify.

    BTW — Thanks Jon for the apology and your blog post. 😉

  5. Harold

    My assertion that companies on the WorldBlu list aren’t democratic? I did not say that in this post, and in re-reading it, I’m not sure how that inference could be made. However, I have added a point of clarification to my post, just in case the last sentence was not clear.

    Thanks for the additional details on WorldBlu, Traci, and thanks for joining the conversation.


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