What are the "Corporate Rebels" about?

Many of us have experienced what bad companies look like. People can keep with failing hierarchical approaches just because they feel safe. It can be hard to make radical change without seeing that it can work. This book gives that vision, showing how companies are taking ideas about values and empowerment and making them work.

I don’t normally write book reviews but I felt I had to write something about this one. I’ve been following the Corporate Rebels for some time. I even wrote an article for them. A Corporate Rebels book was always going to be an interesting prospect.

I’m like many people who promote ideas of empowered, self-managing teams. I’ve led and observed teams over many years. Some perform better than others. I’ve tried to understand the common factors that lead to these high-performing teams. I’ve learned to coach my own teams and others for many years, experimenting to find what works.

Sometimes we hear about a company that seems to have something new. But people want it to be a “magic solution”. Look what happened with Spotify. Kniberg wrote some great material in 2014. And now everyone sees a recipe for success and sells consultancy and even qualifications in “the Spotify methodology”.

It wasn’t intended to be a generic framework – it’s just an example of how one company works

Henrik Kniberg

So what’s different about the Corporate Rebels? They were in a similar place of finding the standard approaches just weren’t working.

We weren’t frustrated with the work itself…
What was driving us nuts was the way our employers arranged things.

“Corporate Rebels”

And they came up with a crazy idea. They built a “Bucket List” of companies that were doing things dramatically differently. And they planned to visit them all. Not just one or two. One hundred and twenty five so far. And then share their learning. A blog initially, now a book, and now listed among the top 30 emergent management thinkers.

We check off our Bucket List by these individuals and organisations.
We learn from them and share their insights.

“Corporate Rebels”

The book shows case studies of real companies with new approaches. And across those studies there is a set of patterns. No single company has an “answer” to copy, but there are behaviours that recur. The Corporate Rebels refer to these as the “8 trends“.

  1. from Profit to Purpose & values
  2. from Hierarchical pyramid to Network of teams
  3. from Directive leadership to Supportive leadership
  4. from Plan & predict to Experiment & adapt
  5. from Rules & control to Freedom & trust
  6. from Centralized authority to Distributed decision making
  7. from Secrecy to Radical transparency
  8. from Job descriptions to Talents & mastery

For each of these, the case studies show organisations which have made radical changes and succeeded. For example, many of us try and focus on flat organisations and autonomous teams. Some of these pioneers have progressed far further. Buurtzorg has 1000 autonomous teams and only 50 people in their head office. Haier have 70,000 employees organised as 4000 effectively separate organisations.

We create an organisation that puts entrepreneurship at its heart

Zhang Ruimin, CEO Haier

Corporate Rebels use their 8 categories and a 5 level scale in each. This gives a valuable structure to what otherwise might be a very anecdotal book. Each company showcases success in one area and the 5 levels show what steps you might take in that direction.

Any leader should read this book, but it’s not a book just for CEOs. It emphasises the power of individuals making change. The word “Rebel” is chosen for a reason.

By that time we were performing so well that noone dared to interfere.

Frank van Massenhove, Belgian Ministry of Social Security

I’ll leave the last word to the authors.

This book is an overture to options, ideas and inspiration, not a doctrine to follow.

“Corporate Rebels”

“Corporate Rebels” is by Joost Minnaar and Pim de Morree.

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