Decision Making (Part Two)

Because there are no managers in Teal bars and the team members are making decisions themselves using the collective decision making tools, they are more emotionally invested in making the right choice and being successful. With the Teal transformation, the empowered and hierarchical system will evolve into a fully powerful and fluid system of distributed authority and collective intelligence.

Distributed authority can come in many forms. I’ve worked in a venue where everyone in the staff could and would make fruit orders themselves, without needing a permission from a manager. Moreover, it was quite natural for us that the person making the order rotated daily and he or she would double check with others (advice process) if they wanted to add something to the order for example to practice with. Everyone was also able to suggest new products in the spirit portfolio, create items on the menu or even propose events or collaborations we could do in the venue.

I believe the staff together can do the stocktaking (monthly/weekly), order new products, plan events, schedule holidays and be in charge of the administrative side as well. They can also decide which brands to support and how to best integrate with the local community. The team can even plan how they distribute the tasks and plan their own training program. They can ask and get guidance of course, but at the end of the day it’s part of their responsibilities to be proactive.

They can also decide if they need more or less bartenders, as long as the decision can be argued properly. Moreover, they should definitely be part of the hiring process to have an input on who they will work with in the future. Finally, the team should also monitor their own performance actively and find a way to adjust accordingly and make improvements if needed. Since the team has several tasks to distribute among themselves, they should also get credit for their work (more on that in the Motivation post as well as in the Compensation and Incentives post).

The Bull and The Firm (photo by: Antero Semi)

The lack of pyramidal hierarchy and managers creates space and opportunities for natural and spontaneous relations to flourish. These “actualization hierarchies” include relations of recognition, influence and skill. To clarify, even with no manager-server hierarchy it doesn’t mean everyone is “equal” per se. It’s natural that some have more to contribute or to say, because of expertise, interest or willingness to step up and say something. Some are talented listeners in the team, some are better at handling complaints, some know more prep techniques and some are walking libraries about different spirits and brands. It goes without saying, that everyone has equal rights and are treated equally as humans, but the differences in skills and interests always creates a team with a wide range of different responsibilities and expertise areas.

Changing over to and holding on to self-management strategies is not always easy. When things get tough, stressful and unpleasant problems arise, the team can’t just shove the problems to a manager and expect them to handle them (since there are no managers). They can’t blame a boss or the system for their hardships. The team just has to realize they are capable of dealing with the problem and have all the power and range to do so because of the transparent way or running the bar.

Liberty or Death (photo by: Antero Semi)

Possible problems I have noticed that can arise are the cleaning duties (daily, weekly, monthly), prep time, products to be used or deciding whether to cut or add staff levels. If it is a collective decision to work a certain night with less staff members, perhaps to meet a target, everyone has to stand behind the decision. They can’t blame a single person, traditionally a manager, for this decision. What they can do, is to learn from it and be wiser the next time around. I would like to highlight that this is one of the key elements, in my opinion, in a symbiotic bar. When decisions are made in a collective manner, everyone is on the same page and there is no chance for a blame game. A good or a bad decision, it is made together.

Few tips. To help with the transparent information flow and to enable everyone to make real-time decisions, the bar staff could use an all access spreadsheet (e.g. google docs) as a tool. For example, anyone could add things to a real-time ordering list when they notice some products are low or finished. This way, you don’t need to leave post-it notes laying around and send reminders to a manager several times making sure the products get ordered. Everyone can see if the item has been ordered, if it’s on it’s way or didn’t arrive when it should have. Share the knowledge among your colleagues when to order certain types of products to keep the inventory low (different threshold for perishable goods that can go rotten in days compared to dishwasher soap that can last longer).

A bit of a next level thought would be giving everyone access to the company credit card to make everyday purchases (buying produce on one’s way to work) and ordering stock for the bar. Maybe they could even purchase specialty bottles for the back bar, equipment for prepping or new ingredients to try out, if argued properly. The ideology that I’ve been writing about suggests that we should trust the team and have no limits in the credit card. What do you think? If there is a limit, is it set by the owners or could it be discussed with the team? Certainly, some purchase categories would need different limits as well (fruits and garnishes vs renovations, ice machine, expensive kitchen appliances).

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Mika Ammunét Written by:

Bar Manager, Future Bar Owner

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