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Lose the boss & red tape. Add trust in your people. Mix & serve. The ideal ingredients for a great culture.

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By: Jenny Knuth, art director / geek & creative @ wisnet

Company: Morning Star
Crush Categories: Ownership; leadership philosophy; management style

What is ‘Culture Crush’ all about?
There are many great companies doing amazing things for their people, communities and beyond. Here, we’re highlighting those companies, teams, and ideas we’re in love with — to inspire and grow your workplace cultures!

If your team is like ours, it’s highly motivated by food — making it a great way to bring the team together without many questions. Pizza = a constant in our cafe. A delicious Wisconsin bratwurst or a grilled burger topped with assorted condiments during grill out days … yum! Salsa & chips as a snack … I’m there!

What’s the common ingredient here? Oddly, tomatoes!?! Which brings us to the point of the article … and what we’re drooling about most at the moment … that being the workplace culture of California-based tomato paste company — Morning Star.

Bucket loads of the good stuff.

We first heard of Morning Star’s engaging culture and intriguing management style through TED & Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast episode, “A world without bosses.” While listening to the podcast, we were instantly in love with their self-management mentality and how it brings a refreshing, tangible sense of ownership, bucket loads of accountability, autonomy, and trust — topping it all off with sincere opportunities for growth. This intentional combo brings true freedom to ALL individuals on the team, regardless of working hard in a corner office or on the shop floor.

So, who is the boss at Morning Star, you ask?

They lay it all out as the company mission statement. But it’s a bit more in-depth than that. Make sure you check out this interview on their self-management system, the nuances, and how they experience the greatest success with it.

No time for that? We get it! So, here are our core takeaways about self-management & Morning Star:

Takeaway #1
Whether you prefer the idea of no bosses or everyone as their own boss, this unique approach to a flat hierarchy removes authority and traditional power dynamics. What we love most is the implication of individuals working ‘with’ one another verses ‘for’ another. Major crush brownie points from our perspective that they avoid the word “employee” — preferring the word “colleague” to imply being shoulder to shoulder and in partnership.


Takeaway #2
While we’re not much for strict rules, Morning Star’s two key principles are essential checkpoints for all to live & work by.

  1. Individuals should not use force against other people or their property.
  2. Individuals should respect and uphold the commitments they have made to others.

Takeaway #3
Just because there are no official bosses or managers, doesn’t mean leadership roles or structure are non-existent. Leadership roles are “cultivated and earned … based on competence, trust … and relationship building.” Read more in a short article or check out a full self-management white paper.

Who makes the decisions? The people best suited and committed to them. Where/how have they committed? The colleague letter of understanding — which is a voluntary, negotiated agreement outlining activities and processes for which one wants to be held responsible. It includes scope, definition of decision making for that person/role, and much much more. You can read that here.

If an agreement can’t be made, of course there are teams/people who step in. If you’re getting hung up on that being the essence of a “boss,” you’re missing the point.


Takeaway #4

Team dynamic & accountability — check! Now, what about individual needs & understanding? For this, Morning Star names five core crucial competencies for individual success:

  1. Taking Initiative
    In short, team members need to have a strong willingness and ability to speak up when necessary. No continuous hand holders for everyday tasks need apply.
  2. Tolerance for Ambiguity
    Without that clear-cut path to the boss’s office to have “them” figure it out, the responsibility to find solutions lies with the team — which makes constant communication, with a side of patience, critical for individual and team success.
  3. Consciousness
    Be present. Know and be confident that you’re at the table because you have solid expertise and talents — and the company fully entrusts you with those tasks and commitments.
  4. Contribution Mindset
    You are not in this alone so share, share, teach, learn and repeat.
  5. Low Power Distance Sensitivity
    Throw ego-building from power/authority/command & control out the window. Your credibility is built on a higher demand than that and we know you all have it in you!

Hire the right people and trust they’ll figure it out.

Boss or no boss, what’s most important is determining what core values, expectations, and foundational understandings need to be communicated so the team develops & sustains confidence in each other.

Everything here from Morning Star and their self-management philosophy brings wonderful language and clarity in what we believe to our core works great for culture building — especially a small team like ours where autonomy and ‘moving out of the way’ are essential to a productive, fulfilled team.

 

Have a company culture story or culture-building tactic that you’re crushing on and dying to share? We’d love to hear from you! Email me at jenny@wisnet.com.